May 29 – It’s Gifts from the Garden Month

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About the Holiday

Many of us – and perhaps even more this year – spend the summer digging, planting, and tending our garden and yard. We look forward to all of the delicious vegetables and fruit our gardens provide and the hours of fun we have playing or lounging in the yard. But if you look closely, these areas offer up other gifts too. That profusion of dandelions may seem like bothersome weeds, but their sunny flowers and puffball seeds also create beauty and unforgettable childhood moments. Watching industrious insects reminds us of the wonder of nature below our feet or pollinating our crops. And – as today’s book shows – with some imagination and creativity that garden or yard can be transformed into a work of art. So, get outside and see what your gifts are sprouting in your backyard.

I received a copy of Leafy Critters from Blue Dot Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

By Jakki Licare

Leafy Critters

By Yvonne Lacet

This creative and imaginative earth art book by Yvonne Lacet an artist and photographer, whose work incorporates urban environments, landscapes, and nature play, will inspire children to look at nature in a whole new light. Yvonne Lacet uses petals, twigs, stems, and leaves to create “Leafy Critters.” Simple items from nature are arranged together to become different animals: foxes, polar bears, butterflies, mice, and more.

Not only is the artwork stunning but on many pages Lacet shows readers the before and after photos which makes it simple for kids to duplicate her animals. My kids enjoyed pointing out the different items in the before photos and discovering how Lacet used them in her completed artwork. A leaf, for example, transforms into a head or a wing.

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Copyright Yvonne Lacet, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Kids Press.

One of the extraordinary things about this book is not only that any child can find the natural materials needed in their backyard or local park, but the artistic eye Lacet uses to create the eighteen creatures presented. The piglet (pictured on the front cover) is simply six pink petals arranged together. Yvonne takes it a step further, though, and uses the portions of the petals that are near the pistil and have a darker pigment to add shading and detail that  transform into the pig’s hooves and snout.

The image of the polar bear also shows how contrasting colors can create a whole new scene. With the black paper background and white petals sprinkled over the page, we are suddenly transported into an arctic snowstorm at night! The great thing about Leafy Critters is that it makes young readers think outside the box. If you don’t have white petals on hand, then rice could make a great substitution. 

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Copyright Yvonne Lacet, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Kids Press.

My boys are often frustrated with art projects because they cannot create “realistic art.” Earth art, however, is an easy way for kids to explore colors and composition without the frustration of being limited by their skills. It only requires a little nature and a creative eye. So take Leafy Critters outside! You’ll be surprised to discover what creatures creep, crawl, swim, and lurk in your own backyard. 

A DIY page at the back gives kids tips on how to search for materials, gather them, and look at the colors, shapes, and sizes of leaves, petals, seeds, and more to spark their imaginations. Younger children will enjoy the creativity in each design on the pages while older children and even teens and adults will be inspired to create their own works of art.

Whether you are looking for a fun home art project or inspiration for your elementary art students, Leafy Critters will make a creative addition to your library.

Ages 3 and up

Blue Dot Kids Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1733121224

Discover more about Yvonne Lacet and her work on her website.

Gifts from the Garden Month Activity

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Natural Art Note Card

Send a special note to a loved one with your own leafy critter. This idea could be a great card for Father’s Day too! Just write in Dad after otter!

Supplies

  • Natural Materials (I used brown leaves, bark, clover flowers, and stems)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Marker
  • Paper

Directions

  1. Gather your natural materials outside

  2. Arrange your pieces together to make an otter shape

  3. Cut any pieces that need to be shaped or trimmed

  4. Glue your otter down

  5. Write “There’s no OTTER like you!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-leafy-critters-cover

You can find Leafy Critters at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

May 28 – It’s Dental Care Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

The benefits of good dental hygiene have been recognized since the early 1900s, when Thaddeus P. Hyatt encouraged people to take preventative measures to clean and protect their teeth. The month-long holiday we’re celebrating today was established by Dr. Tim Stirneman and Jim Wojdyla from Compassionate Dentalcare to raise awareness about regular brushing, flossing, and check-ups to keep cavities from forming. Good dental care begins even before babies develop their first tooth and is an important habit to instill in children. After all, the tooth fairy is looking for those shiniest of treasures.

Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO

Written by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli | Illustrated by Federico Fabiani

 

Tallulah the tooth fairy loves her work so much that she was inspired to start her own company—Teeth Titans Incorporated, which is “the largest tooth-collection organization on the planet.” As the company’s CEO, Tallulah feels many demands on her time, but she handles them by reminding herself of what she calls “the three Ps: her passion, her purpose, and what pays.” Her week is divided into time for herself (coffee or tea and a workout on Mondays, therapy on Wednesdays, “yoga, Pilates, and errands” on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and museum visits on Fridays) and work-related tasks like training new tooth fairies for all of those world-wide collection duties.

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Image copyright Federico Fabiano, 2019, text copyright Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, 2019. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

She tells her story on late-night talk shows and scouts for talent at glitzy recruitment events. In addition to all of this, she completes her nightly rounds. “Sure, she could afford to sit around counting teeth and money, but nothing gives Tallulah quite the same thrill as sliding a shiny tooth out from under a child’s pillow and inserting something gleaming and jingly or crisp and easily folded in exchange.”

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Image copyright Federico Fabiano, 2019, text copyright Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, 2019. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Usually, things go as planned, but one night, at Tallulah’s last stop, instead of a tooth under young Ballard Burchell’s pillow, she pulled out a note. She was a bit disappointed to find the typical picture of a tooth fairy drawn at the bottom, but she continued reading and learned that Ballard had well and truly lost his tooth and had nothing to give her. He hoped she would understand.

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Image copyright Federico Fabiano, 2019, text copyright Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, 2019. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

This conundrum was a first for Tallulah. She consulted “her Teeth Titans Incorporated Employee Manual for reference,” but found no help there. “Though she’d written the manual herself, Tallulah hadn’t made provisions for such a rare occurrence.” There was only one thing to do. Tallulah quickly met with the seven members of her board of directors and asked for advice. Two members thought Ballard should learn a lesson in responsibility and get nothing. One thought partial payment was in order. Two more thought it was polite of Ballard to leave a note and to give the kid a break since everyone loses things now and again. And Tom, as the only male board member, wanted to talk about diversity on the board.

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Image copyright Federico Fabiano, 2019, text copyright Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, 2019. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Later that night, with her decision made, Tallulah returned to Ballard’s room “to leave him a note of her own—and a little something extra.” In the morning Ballard discovered the note letting him off the hook this time for misplacing his tooth plus a “patented Teeth Titans Incorporated tooth compartment lanyard,” which usually “retails for $9.95” and is available on the company website, but is his as a gift. The note is even signed by The Tooth Fairy herself.

Ballard couldn’t believe it. He ran to show his mom, and then when he opened the little tooth box on the end of the lanyard, he discovered “one more surprise from Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO: the shiniest gold coin you ever did see.”

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Image copyright Federico Fabiano, 2019, text copyright Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, 2019. Courtesy of us.macmillan,com.

Dr. Tamara Pizzoli gives the tooth fairy a fresh, funny, and sophisticated update for today’s savvy kids. With wry, snappy descriptions of Tallulah’s life in and out of the office, Pizzoli riffs on the topics of self-care, home décor, the media, corporate culture, product placement, and even Mrs. Santa Clause (who finally gets a name—Charlene). Along the way, she shines a spotlight on stereotypes, celebrity, diversity, and kindness. Kids will love this take-charge tooth fairy who’s also not adverse to asking for help and taking advice. And who needs wings when there is rappelling gear and night goggles?

Federico Fabiani’s Tallulah, with her stunning purple-tinged afro, round glasses, and tooth-inspired fashions, is a confident, trend-setting leader with a single focus on excellence. Fabiani’s jazzy color palette lends eye-popping excitement to the illustrations that are stylishly modern with a retro feel. Kids will love finding all the clever references to teeth in Tallulah’s clothing, jewelry, and office and household items. Adults will appreciate with a laugh the nods to today’s culture from veganism to consumerism to media and social media.

A smart, funny book that goes far beyond its tooth fairy roots to offer opportunities to discuss diversity, social movements, and even empathy, Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO would be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public libraries to share when teeth wiggle out or anytime. 

Ages 4 – 8 

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-0374309190

You can discover more about Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, her books, and her publishing house on The English Schoolhouse website.

To learn more about Federico Fabiani and see a portfolio of his art, visit his website.

National Tooth Fairy Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Smile-for-the-tooth-fairy-mazeSmile for the Tooth Fairy! Maze

 

The Tooth Fairy is trying to collect a lost tooth! Can you help her find her way in this printable maze?

Smile for the Tooth Fairy! Maze | Smile for the Tooth Fairy! Maze Solution

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You can find Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

May 27 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

Pets give us unconditional love, provide companionship, and add entertainment and fun to our lives. This month is set aside to focus on our pets. To celebrate spend extra time with your furry friend, make sure they have everything they need to stay healthy, and give them a little extra treat. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting a dog, cat, bird, or small animal from your local animal shelter. You’ll both benefit!

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read

Written by Curtis Manley | Illustrated by Kate Berube

 

One summer Nick, Verne, and Stevenson did everything together. Nick is a little boy and Verne and Stevenson are two very different cats. Nick and Verne loved to spend time near the water—Stevenson tolerated it. Nick and Verne slept happily in a tent under the stars—Stevenson barely shut his eyes. While Nick rode his bike Verne eagerly sat in the front basket—Stevenson hunkered down in a box on the back. But when Nick sat down to read, both cats had similar ideas of fun—like lying on top of the book—and Nick could hardly read a sentence.

“So Nick decided to teach them how to read. He made flash cards and started with easy words” like “ball,” but Verne and Stevenson just wanted to play with the ball. While the three had a picnic on the lawn, Nick brought out his flashcards and “pointed to the word food. The cats ignored him.” When the cats snoozed Nick woke them with a sign. “‘This is no time for an N-A-P!’” he said. Neither cat responded well, so Nick tried a new tactic. He made word-shaped flash cards. Verne took a nibble of “F-I-S-H,” but Stevenson hid under the bed.

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Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Nick began to see that Verne liked stories about cats and fish. “Verne loved fish. He followed along as Nick read, learning the sounds of the letters.” He even read by himself, discovering new stories, especially 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But Stevenson? When Nick spelled words for him, he merely ran under the porch, hissing. By this time Verne was reading so many books that he got his own library card and Nick needed help carrying all of his books home. Nick and Verne had fun acting out their favorite stories, but they missed Stevenson.

One day “Verne discovered a treasure under the bed—a great stack of Stevenson’s pirate drawings. “‘Wow!’” Nick whispered. “‘Stevenson drew a story.’” Nick and Verne put the pages together and began to write words to go with them. When the story was finished, Nick, Verne, and Stevenson “squeezed under the porch, gave Stevenson an eye patch, and read The Tale of One-Eyed Stevenson and the Pirate Gold. Stevenson listened and followed along. He didn’t run away. Or hiss. Not even once.”

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Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Suddenly, Stevenson couldn’t get enough of books.  Even before Nick woke up, Stevenson could be found with his nose in Treasure Island or another adventure book, and whenever Nick and Verne played pirates, Stevenson joined in. He helped bring down “scurvy mutineers” and found buried treasure. Now the three readers do everything together. They “hunt for dinosaurs in the lost world behind the garden…race around the yard in eighty seconds…and journey to the center of the basement.” And while they all like to read on their own, they also like it when someone reads to them. “Hmmm…,” Nick thinks, maybe next he could teach his cats to talk. “‘Meow,’ says Stevenson.”

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Image copyright Kate Berube, 2016, text copyright Curtis Manley, 2016. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Curtis Manley’s adorable tribute to reading and learning to read, using cats with very different personalities, is inspired. Just as some people respond more to the words while others are attracted by the pictures, Verne and Stevenson have their own relationships with books. The names of the cats and their preferred reading material are also reminders that books are personal, and disinterest in one type of story does not reflect disinterest in all stories. Manley’s text makes for a joyful read-aloud as his language and phrasing is evocative, lyrical, and imaginative.

In perfect accompaniment, Kate Berube brings this creative story to life, illustrating the tender relationship between Nick and his pets as well as emphasizing the humor and distinct personalities inherent in orange-striped Verne and smoky-gray Stevenson that influence their journeys to literacy. Depictions of the various books Verne and Stevenson are drawn to highlight the literary references in the trio’s further play. Readers will want to stop and peruse the page of library shelves, where such books as “Harry Picaroon and the Swashbuckler’s Stone”, “Harold and the Purple Canon”, “Millions of Rats”, and “Where the Wild Pirates Are” wait to be checked out in the Pirates section.

Kids will eagerly want to adopt The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, and it will snuggle in nicely on children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481435697

Discover “the facts, fictions, poems, and numbers” of Curtis Manley on his website!

View a gallery of Kate Berube‘s art on her website!

National Pet Month Activity

A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

You can find The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

May 26 – It’s National Bike Month

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About the Holiday

Established in 1956 and sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, National Bike Month celebrates all the fun and benefits of cycling. In years past, communities around the country have celebrated with special events, tours, and safety lessons. The month also hosts Bike to School and Bike to Work days to encourage people to leave their cars at home, get fresh air and exercise, and have fun at the same time. While National Bike Month is peddling down, there’s still a whole summer in which to take part in this wonderful activity.

Two Dogs on a Trike

Written by Gabi Snyder | Illustrated by Robin Rosenthal

 

You know that when you open the cover of a book, little ones are counting on hearing something special. That’s just what awaits them with Two Dogs on a Trike. As the story opens “One dog stands alone” behind a wall. But the gate is open and he eyes with interest the tricycle that’s just about to pass out of sight. Someone else—turbaned in a towel and enjoying a steaming mug of coffee—is watching too. As the dog jumps on the back of the tricycle and joins a poodle, the watcher trades the robe, slippers, and coffee  for shorts, sneakers, and a headband and takes off after the “two dogs on a trike.”

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Image copyright Robin Rosenthal, 2020, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Along the way the dogs pick up another friend and abandon the trike in favor of a scooter as the follower dons a helmet and roller skates. With the addition of a dachshund wearing a cone and the acquisition of a tandem bicycle outfitted for four, the dogs are speeding downhill while their sunglasses-wearing tag-along sips a cool drink while balanced on a skateboard.

Going uphill, those dogs decide on a new mode of transportation. Ding, ding! Now there are “five dogs on a trolley.” And you-know-who? Yep—zipping right behind them in a sporty racecar. It’s lunchtime and there’s no better way to enjoy a slice of pizza in style then on a train with a shaggy sheepdog conductor. Surely, that follower can’t still be…following. Well, yes and no—and how was that pizza delivered on the roof? From pizza on a train to a dance party on a ferry?! These dogs know how to have fun! Do you think they know they’re being spied on from a submarine? Next they all take to the sky and then into outer space where “ten dogs…WAIT! That watcher, follower, tag-along finally catches up with them and…”THAT’S NOT A DOG!”

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Image copyright Robin Rosenthal, 2020, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Now there are “Nine fleeing dogs on a hot-air balloon!” Then “Eight dogs on a plane!” They hurry, hurry on the ferry and speed back on the train! But still that cat is after them on a Segway, on a unicycle, and on a very low, cool bike. Behind the wall and the now-locked gate, “one dog stands alone.” Next door, a towel-turbaned mouse peeks out a little door and spies someone wheeling into view. As it rolls by, the cat jumps on, and they’re followed by…guess who!

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Image copyright Robin Rosenthal, 2020, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Learning to count to ten and back should always be this much madcap fun! Gabi Snyder and Robin Rosenthal’s superbly devised and executed concept book offers jaunty rhymes and non-stop laughs to entertain kids while they engage with early math, addition, subtraction and even literacy. Along the way, they’re also introduced to different vehicles and wheels of all kinds. Snyder’s short sentences pop with rhythm, making them easy to remember, and little ones are sure to excitedly join in on subsequent readings. When readers reach the count of ten, Snyder’s clever line break, which, besides turning the story on its head and sending it zooming in reverse, invites kids to supply the missing rhyming word. In this second half, exclamation points replace periods, demanding a dramatic reading that will have kids giggling all the way to one. As the cat hops on the back of a trike with the little mouse in tow, children will eagerly want to turn to the first page again and replace those dogs for cats. Children a little older may like to keep the story going by next putting the mouse on the trike and thinking up their own new follower.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-dogs-on-a-trike-hot-air-balloon

Image copyright Robin Rosenthal, 2020, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2020. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Robin Snyder’s vibrant digital artwork is crisp and fresh and layered with details that invite giggles, prediction, and lots of engagement. As each spread includes one more (or one less) dog and introduces a new mode of transportation, children and adults will find many concepts to discuss as well as many opportunities to count—from the number of trees on a hill to the stars on a dog’s pants to the windows in a city scape and the stars in the sky. Little ones will want to linger over each page to examine the pack of dogs and see which one is added or subtracted. The dogs’ facial expressions—especially as they discover the cat in their midst—is comic gold, and the cat’s nonchalant surveillance heightens the humor and the suspense.

Sure to unleash a joy for learning and to become a favorite read aloud, Two Dogs on a Trike is a must for  at home, in the classroom, and for public libraries.

Ages Baby – 5

Abrams Appleseed, 2020 | ISBN 978-1419738913

Discover more about Gabi Snyder and her books on her website.

To learn more about Robin Rosenthal, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Bike Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dog-riding-bike-coloring-page

 

Dog on a Bike Coloring Page

       

Is this dog riding in the city? In the country? Outside your house? Inside your house? Draw a background and then color this printable page.

Dog on a Bike Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-two-dogs-on-a-trike-cover

You can find Two Dogs on a Trike at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

May 25 – Memorial Day

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About the Holiday

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day to commemorate the laying of wreaths and flowers on soldiers’ gravesites, was first celebrated on May 30, 1868. In 1971 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and established the last Monday in May as Memorial Day. The day is honored with parades and special commemorative events. At Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC, the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans

Written by Barbara Elizabeth Walsh | Illustrated by Layne Johnson

 

In April of 1917 President Woodrow Wilson declared that America was going to war in Europe. As a teacher and foster mother to girls at the University of Georgia’s Normal School, Moina Belle Michael wanted to do something to honor the boys going off to fight—boys who were the brothers, sweethearts, even fathers of her students. Moina did what the other women were doing to help—knitting socks and sweaters and rolling bandages—but she wanted to do more. She went to the soldiers’ camps nearby to deliver books, magazines, and candy, and she waved goodbye to them at the train station. But she still wanted to do more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-poppy-lady-waving-goodbye

Image copyright Layne Johnson, 2012, text copyright Barbara Elizabeth Walsh, 2012. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press.

Moina wanted to go overseas to help the young men with the Y.M.C.A, but after she finished her training at New York’s Columbia University, she was told she was too old to go. She then set up a desk in the basement of Hamilton Hall on the Columbia University campus where she assisted soldiers before they deployed, but the room was dark and dreary. Moina wanted them to have a more cheerful meeting place.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-poppy-lady-poppy-camp

Image copyright Layne Johnson, 2012, text copyright Barbara Elizabeth Walsh, 2012. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press.

Moina brightened the room with fresh flowers she bought with her small salary. More soldiers came to spend time with her, to share their pictures, letters, and hometown news. But Moina wanted to do even more. One day she rediscovered a poem she had read many times. Titled We Shall Not Sleep, it was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae and was a tribute to soldiers who had died on the battlefields of Flanders. The poem was illustrated with a field of nameless crosses and bright red poppies. The last verse of the poem urged others to take up the torch of the noble fight. Suddenly, Moina knew what she had to do.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-poppy-lady-war

Image copyright Layne Johnson, 2012, text copyright Barbara Elizabeth Walsh, 2012. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press.

She wrote a poem of her own, giving poppies a special meaning: “And now the Torch and Poppy red / We wear in honor of our dead. / Fear not that ye have died for naught; / We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought / In Flanders Field.” Moina shared her poem with soldiers at the Y. Many wanted to wear red poppies on their uniforms to honor their fallen friends. With a ten dollar donation, Moina went shopping to find artificial red poppies that she and the soldiers could wear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-poppy-lady-poppy-on-coat

Image copyright Layne Johnson, 2012, text copyright Barbara Elizabeth Walsh, 2012. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press.

But finding these flowers was difficult. She finally found one large poppy and 24 smaller ones. She pinned the large one to her coat and with the others wrapped, hurried back to the Y. There she gave the small flowers to some of the men and women leaving for the war in France. But there were so few flowers to share. Moina wanted every American to wear a poppy to remember the soldiers. Always.

The epilogue goes on to reveal that two days after Moina bought those 24 poppies, World War I ended.  While everyone was happy to see the soldiers coming home, people wanted to move on, to forget the horrors of the war. But for veterans it wasn’t easy. Jobs were scarce, some veterans were disabled or suffered lingering effects of war.

Moina wanted to help. She wondered if the poppy could benefit returning veterans. After much work she convinced local and international veterans’ groups to adopt the poppy as their memorial flower. People began donating to veterans’ causes, and in return they received a red poppy. Millions of dollars were raised to help the soldiers. Even today, Moina’s red poppies benefit veterans and remind us of their sacrifices and service.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-poppy-lady-moina

Image copyright Layne Johnson, 2012, text copyright Barbara Elizabeth Walsh, 2012. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press.

Through her detailed telling of how Moina Belle Michael discovered her life’s work, Barbara Elizabeth Walsh provides a realistic view of the World War I era and the desire of most citizens to do something to help the soldiers fighting the war. The sense of suspense, camaraderie, fear, and disappointment that fueled Moina Michael’s heart and actions are beautifully and straightforwardly presented and give children true knowledge of this time period.

Accompanying the text to maximum effect are Layne Johnson’s inspiring, realistic paintings of the scars of war on both the landscape and the human heart. In close-up portraits, Johnson captures the emotions of the women learning that their brothers, boyfriends, and fathers will be joining the war effort as well as scenes of soldiers training, deploying, and returning to tell their stories. Turning the pages is like stepping onto the university campus, visiting the basement gathering space, and walking the city streets. Especially evocative are the two battle scenes and the view of the Flanders Fields with their endless carpet of poppies and straight rows of white cross markers.

For anyone wanting to teach or learn about the origins and meaning of Memorial Day and the significance of the red poppy, The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans is a must read.

Ages 7 – 12 and up

Calkins Creek, Boyds Mills Press, 2012 | ISBN 978-1590787540

Discover more about Barbara Elizabeth Walsh and her books on her website.

To learn more about Layne Johnson and his art, visit his website.

Memorial Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memorial-day-word-scramble

Memorial Day Word Scramble

 

Unscramble the words associated with today’s holiday and discover a secret message! Print your Memorial Day Word Scramble here!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-poppy-lady

You can find The Poppy Lady at these booksellers

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Picture Book Review

 

 

May 24 – National Brother’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today we take time to celebrate brothers! Whether you grew up with a brother (or a few) or have a friend you love like a brother, today’s holiday gives you a terrific reason to get in touch, relive some old memories, and make new ones! This year, as we’re spending more time working and playing with family, today’s book is certainly a home run!

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team

Written by Audrey Vernick | Illustrated by Steven Salerno

When the weather warms and kids’ thoughts turn to sports, the afternoon air rings with the sounds of slamming doors as players race from home to the baseball diamond. Back in the 1920s and ‘30s, the same door slammed not once or twice, not three or four times, not even eight or nine! The door shut behind 12 brothers! Anthony, Joe, Paul, Alfred, Charlie, Jimmy, Bobby, Billy, Freddie, Eddie, Bubbie, and Louie Acerra. These 12 boys also had 4 sisters—but this is a story about baseball, and back then girls didn’t play ball.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-sliding-into-neighborhood
Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

It could be said that “baseball set the rhythm of their lives.” Neighbors couldn’t remember a time when Acerra boys weren’t throwing or hitting a ball or running the bases at the local park. And there was an Acerra on the high school baseball team for 22 years in a row!

In 1938 the nine oldest brothers formed a semi-pro team and competed against other New Jersey teams and teams from New York and Connecticut. Their dad was their coach. The brothers all had different skills—Anthony could hit homeruns, and even hit a couple into the Atlantic Ocean from a seaside park; Charlie was a slow runner; and Jimmy had a knuckleball that was unhittable and uncatchable.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-stadium
Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

But playing had its dangers too. In one game Alfred was going to bunt, but the ball bounced badly off the bat and hit him in the face. He was rushed to the hospital, but the accident caused him to lose an eye. Everyone thought he would never play again. But after he healed, his brothers helped him recover his skills and his courage.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-sliding-into-home
Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

During World War II six of the brothers joined the war effort and spent years apart. Far from home they dreamed of the days when they played together on warm afternoons. When the war ended all the Acerra boys came home to their very happy mother. The brothers got back to what they loved doing best. Now Anthony was their coach, and from 1946 to 1952 they won the Long Branch City Twilight Baseball League championship four times—much to the pleasure of the crowds that came out to watch the Acerras play.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-brothers-last-at-bat
Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

As time went on the Acerras got jobs, married, and had families of their own. In 1952 the brothers played their last game as a team, having made history as the longest-playing, all-brother baseball team ever. Even though the Acerras played many, years ago, people have not forgotten them. In 1997 they were honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame. The surviving seven brothers made the trip along with one sister and more than a hundred relatives. Now Jimmy Acerra’s uniform and glove are on display alongside exhibits about Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Willie Mays. If you visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, you can see them too!

Interesting and personal author’s and artist’s notes follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-brothers
Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

Baseball fans will love Audrey Vernick’s exciting, true story of this most unusual team. Her focus on the close relationship of the Acerra brothers elevates the tale from merely a sports story to one that reveals deep affection and support during difficult times. The different personalities of the brothers shine through in Vernick’s easy, conversational tone, and the inclusion of the Acerra brothers’ induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame shows that this story lives on for all generations.

Steven Salerno’s evocative illustrations will transport readers into a past where neighborhood leagues enjoyed the same level of loyalty as the majors. Capturing the brushed style, colors, and portraiture of pictures of the period, Salerno shows kids not only what it meant to be a baseball player in the 1930s and 40s, but what it meant to be a family.

Ages 4 – 9

Clarion Books, 2012 | ISBN 978-0547385570

Discover more about Audrey Vernick and her book on her website.

To learn more about Steven Salerno, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Brother’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-best-brother-certificate

Best Brother Award Certificate

Today is all about your brother and how great you think he is! Print and fill out this Best Brother Award Certificate and give it to your brother—or brothers!

You can find Brothers at Bat at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 23 – It’s National Tennis Month

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About the Holiday

When the weather turns warm, thoughts turn to love. Not romantic love, but tennis! Tennis can’t be matched for thrilling one-on-one competition, exercise, and fun. While this year the world’s great tennis tournaments may be cancelled, outdoor tennis courts may be open, allowing you to reap the benefits of this favorite sport. Even though tournament viewing is limited this summer, you can always immerse yourself in a stirring biography of the game’s great players––starting with today’s book that’s all about love––of tennis and family!

Serena: The Littlest Sister

Written by Karlin Gray | Illustrated by Monica Ahanonu

 

On that day when “Serena stood in Arthur Ashe Stadium and kissed the trophy,” her fans, sisters, and parents cheered. How had that day come about? It started thirteen years earlier when Serena, then four years old, joined her older sisters on the tennis court where their dad coached them. As he showed Serena how to swing, her sisters celebrated when she hit one and ran after the ones she didn’t. Mostly, the equipment they used was old and donated. Sometimes the balls had even lost their bounce, but “their father explained that it was good practice for Wimbledon—a Grand Slam tournament where the balls bounced lower because the tennis court was made of grass.”

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Image copyright Monica Ahanonu, 2019, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

When they weren’t on a real tennis court, the girls played a pretend game of tennis on the sidewalk. Serena loved when she won these games “because, well, Serena loved being the star.” As they grew, their father never allowed them “to use the word can’t.” Their mom told them, “‘Whatever you become, you become in your head first.’ So the girls dreamed of what they could become.” While the other sisters became a nurse, a lawyer, and a singer, Venus and Serena became top tennis players.

Venus was taking the tennis world by storm with her hard hitting, speed, and 100-miles-per-hour serve. Serena wanted to play in tournaments too, but her father said she wasn’t ready. But one day, Serena noticed an application for a tournament Venus was playing in. Serena filled it out and sent it in. At the tournament, Serena snuck off to play on one court while her parents watched Venus on another. Serena ran her opponent ragged and won the match.

Serena thought her father might be angry, but instead he was proud and began teaching her how to play against her next opponent. “Serena won all her matches, moving up and up until…she faced her big sister in the final match.” During the match, Serena asked Venus to let her win one game, but Venus ignored her plea. Later at home, though, Venus traded her gold trophy for Serena’s silver one. “Serena cherished that trophy.” Serena idolized Venus and did everything she did until her father reminded her that she was her own person. Some people didn’t think Serena would have the success Venus did, but her oldest sister told her, “‘You’ll have your day. And it’s gonna be even bigger.’”

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Image copyright Monica Ahanonu, 2019, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

After several years of winning, Serena, Venus, and her family moved to Florida for training. On those courts the girls stood out for their skin color, their beaded braids—and “their powerful strokes.” When Venus was fourteen, she was allowed to enter professional tournaments. She won her first match. When Serena turned pro, she didn’t win. The two teamed up as doubles partners, and by the time she was sixteen, Serena had grown in both height and confidence. She had her own style of play too.

The sisters continued to play as a doubles team, and in 1999 they won the French Open Doubles competition. Venus was eighteen and Serena was seventeen. That same year, the sisters entered the US Open, the tournament Serena had long dreamed of winning. Surprisingly, Venus was knocked out early, but Serena kept winning her matches. In the finals she met the player who had beaten Venus. Serena served eight aces and “her fierce forehand earned her point after point.” Serena won the match and became “the first black woman to win a Grand Slam singles tournament in more than forty years.” At the awards ceremony, Serena thanked her dad, her mom, and her sisters for all of their support. The crowd cheered as cameras flashed. “And one of the many headlines of the day read, Little Sister, BIG HIT!”

An Afterword highlights other victories Serena and Venus have enjoyed during their careers, follow-ups on their sisters, and quotations from each of the five sisters.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-serena-the-littlest-sister-grand-slam

Image copyright Monica Ahanonu, 2019, text copyright Karlin Gray, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Karlin Gray’s masterful biography of Serena Williams shows young readers the determination, confidence, and strong familial bond that followed Serena through her life and made her one of tennis’s most influential women players. The family’s remarkable life and focus on what one can achieve will inspire all kids, no matter what their dream is. Choosing seminal events in Serena’s and Venus’s life, Gray follows Serena’s reputation on the court as she loses and wins matches, building suspense until that day when she accomplishes her goal and wins the US Open. Her inclusion of articles and comments that cast doubt on Serena’s future success, demonstrates that even the greats face opposition and naysaying, and Serena’s sister’s advice to ignore it is sound.

Monica Ahanonu’s textured, collage-style illustrations leap off the page with vibrant images full of action and the girls’ personalities. As the girls race onto a court for practice, their eager expressions show their love of the game and being together. Even as a four-year-old Serena has the steely eyed gaze of a champion as she watches the bouncing ball and lines up for her swing. Ahanonu’s use of various perspectives and shadowing create dynamic scenes on the court, and tennis lovers will be thrilled at the many illustrations of Venus and Serena playing their sport. The bond between the sisters is evident in images of Serena interacting with one or more of her sisters. Those who remember Serena’s win at the 1999 US Open will recognize her joyous win.

Perfectly aimed at young readers who are the same age as Serena and Venus when they began developing their skills and sport, Serena: The Littlest Sister is an inspirational biography of a present-day role model that is sure to spark an “I can” attitude. Adults who have followed the Williams sisters’ rise to tennis stardom will be equally enthralled with this beautiful biography. The book would make a stirring addition to home, classroom, and library collections.

Ages 8 – 11

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146947

Discover more about Karlin Gray and her books on her website.

To learn more about Monica Ahanonu and her work, visit her website.

National Tennis Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tennis-word-search-puzzle

Tennis Love Word Search Puzzle

 

If you’re a tennis ace, you’ll enjoy finding the tennis-related words in this printable word search puzzle.

Tennis Love Word Search Puzzle | Tennis Love Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-serena-the-littlest-sister-cover

You can find Serena: The Littlest Sister at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound

Picture Book Review