April 19 – Poetry and the Creative Mind Day

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About the Holiday

During April we celebrate National Poetry Month, but poetry comes in so many shapes and sizes, genres and presentations that today is set aside to honor both the poets and artists that interpret our world. Sounds like the perfect definition of a poetry picture book! With its rhymes and rhythms and ability to embody emotions from serious to humorous, poetry is often the first type of literature little ones hear. There are so many wonderful collections of poetry for children as well as picture books written in rhyme to share with kids. Today, stop by your local bookstore or library and check some out! And don’t forget to ask about this new book that will be rolling onto shelves soon!

Circle Rolls

Written by Barbara Kanninen | Illustrated by Serge Bloch

 

An achoo! started it all. Well,,, it certainly got the circle rolling. And once circle was on the move, he passed up Oval and solid Square, rolled through the legs on which “Rectangle stands” and up the ramp where “triangle points without any hands.” When Circle came down on Triangle’s point, he popped and rained down “as tiny bits, which land on Square as it sits.”

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Image copyright Serge Bloch, 2018, text copyright Barbara Kanninen, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

That cold—or whatever—must be catching because suddenly Square sneezes, blowing Diamond into Star, who end-over-end stumbles into straight Line, crumpling him like an up-and-down graph. But  those clever friends just see a slide and so one-by-one those happy “shapes glide…” Oh no! “And fly…and collide!”

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Image copyright Serge Bloch, 2018, text copyright Barbara Kanninen, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Oval, Rectangle, Triangle, Diamond, and Star toss and tumble in a swirling mess until Octagon knows just what to do. The reeling stops, and the shapes untangle. Circle is still a mass of dots, but “Heart appears and gathers bits.” Everyone helps put circle together, and after a check for any left holes, “ready, set…Circle rolls!”

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Image copyright Serge Bloch, 2018, text copyright Barbara Kanninen, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Barbara Kanninen’s poetic story is as infectious as that sneeze that sets the shapes in motion in a domino effect that will have little ones laughing more and more with each mishap. As the shapes fly through the air tumbling and tossed, the images of the rectangle, diamond, oval, triangle and star at topsy-turvy angles provides an opportunity for adults to discuss the nature and recognition of shapes and to point out how they remain true even if not presented in the “usual” way.

Children knowledgeable about stop signs will be happy to recognize Octagon’s role and join in stopping the shapes’ shenanigans.  Introducing Heart as the peace-maker and healer is a nice touch and offers a gentle lesson on kindness and cooperation for the youngest readers. You can bet that as Circle gets rolling again, the story will get a second, third, or… reading.

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Image copyright Serge Bloch, 2018, text copyright Barbara Kanninen, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Serge Bloch’s expressive, glasses-wearing shapes demonstrate their surprise and dismay at the ruckus caused by circle who, despite the cause, seems to be enjoying his somersaulting until he is scattered like a popped balloon by hitting Triangle’s point. Also populating this town of over-sized shapes are tiny sketched-in people who hold the ramp for Circle, open umbrellas as he rains down on them, offers a hanky to sneezing Square, and take part in all the events. They even send an ambulance to the scene of the accident. Kids will love narrating this charming substory that shows the power and caring of community.

Circle Rolls would make a terrific gift (maybe even paired with a set of blocks) for little ones and a go-to book for home and classroom libraries for fun story times and playtimes.

Ages 3 – 5

Phaidon Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714876306

To learn more about Serge Bloch, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Poetry and the Creative Mind Day Activity

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Fun Shape Pages

 

Even little ones love making up stories and poems! These two printable shape pages can inspire story time and playtime and a mix of the two!

The Shape of Home Page:

  • Color the page and then tell a story about who lives inside.

Plenty of Shapes Page:

  • Color and add faces to the shapes then cut out them out and use them to make up stories or even a poem.
  • You can also make the shapes from felt or fleece and use another sheet of felt as a background to place them on. Then see what kinds of shenanigans those shapes can get into. You might even want to act out Circle Rolls!

Picture Book Review

April 18 – It’s Celebrate Diversity Month

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About the Holiday

Established in 2004, Celebrate Diversity Month encourages people to learn more about the world’s cultures and religions. Learning more about our global family and celebrating our differences and our similarities can lead to better relationships between people, more inclusion, and a happier future for the world’s children.

W is for Welcome: A Celebration of America’s Diversity

Written by Brad Herzog | Illustrated by nationally acclaimed artists

 

A journey around America impresses with its natural grandeur of rocky shores, majestic mountains, quilts of fertile fields, and wide-open prairies. More inspiring than these, however, is our diverse population that lends a wealth of knowledge, traditions, language, celebrations, food, music, and experiences to our country, making it a vibrant place to live and work.

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Image copyright Michael Glenn Monroe, 2018, text copyright Brad Herzog. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Brad Herzog has collected twenty-six words to describe the United States and has used them to create lyrical verses and a full compendium of information about the immigrants and their experiences that have molded America from her earliest days and continue to do so today. Starting off, A is for America—that “dreamer’s destination,” and readers learn a bit about the millions of people who have come to our shores.

At C for Culture and D for Diversity, children learn about food, clothing, musical instruments, and even sports that have come to be favorites and were brought here or invented by people from other countries as well as “‘the most diverse square mile’” in America. Because of our country’s innovative spirit, “K is for Knowledge. “From all over the globe, / in a quest to know much more, / brilliant thinkers come here / and continue to explore.” Want to know more? Just check out Y for how immigrants continue to advance our knowledge.

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Image copyright Laura Knorr, 2018, text copyright Brad Herzog. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When immigrants want to make the United States their new home, they learn about N, Naturalization, and O, the Oath they take. And P is for the Poem by Emma Lazarus that has “come to define America’s long tradition of welcoming immigrants”: “A ‘world-wide welcome’ states, / ‘Give me your tired, your poor.’ / And then it adds, ‘I lift my lamp / beside the golden door!’”

All those who have taken comfort from that poem make up the narrative of our land, which is why V is for Voices: “Each immigrant has a tale to tell / about how and why they came / to live in the United States. / No two stories are the same.”

Along the way from A to Z young readers learn more about the people, ideas, and places that define America in verses and fascinating information that expands on the history and future of the United States in letter-perfect fashion.

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Image copyright Pam Carroll, 2018, text copyright Brad Herzog. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Brad Herzog has created a compelling look at immigration, its history, and all the ways America has benefited from her philosophy of welcome. His fascinating informative passages and inspiring verses enlighten readers about past and present contributions by immigrants and also educate children about the law and processes involved in adopting America as a new home.

Thirteen illustrators lend their talents to interpreting Herzog’s verses with images full of color and vitality that are as diverse as America itself. Beautiful scenery from around the country reminds readers of the beauty of this vast land. It is the happy, hopeful, and expressive faces of those who have come and continue to journey here looking for a better life that most inspire and reveal that we are all neighbors.

W is for Welcome is an excellent book to use for leading discussions about American history and immigration at home or in the classroom.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585364022

Discover more about Brad Herzog and his books on his website.

You can learn about these illustrators of W is for Welcome on their websites:

Doug BowlesMaureen K. BrookfieldPat CarrollDavid C. Gardner | Barbara Gibson  | Renée GraefSusan GuyVictor JuhaszLaura KnorrMichael Glenn MonroeGijsbert van Frankenhuyzen | Ross B. Young 

Celebrate Diversity Month Activity 

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A World of Friends! Word Search

 

There are people all over the world just waiting to be friends! Learn how to say “friend” in twenty-one languages with this printable word search.

A World of Friends! Word Search Puzzle | A World of Friends! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review

April 17 – National Haiku Poetry Day and Interview with Amy Losak

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About the Holiday

Small things are amazing—and surprising! We all know good things come in small packages, and just look at the wisdom, humor, and capacity for love of children. The same goes for haiku—the smallest form of poetry in size but never in impact. During National Poetry Month, today is set aside to especially celebrate the haiku. The simple 5-7-5 rule that we all learn in school doesn’t begin to define the complexity of these three-line beauties that distill the world into little nuggets that make readers see life in amazing and surprising ways.

H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z

Written by Sydell Rosenberg | Illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi

 

In her lovely and delightfully whimsical poems, Sydell Rosenberg holds moments in the palms of her hands, letting readers immerse themselves in the tender, humorous, and wistful flashes of a day before they shift, evolve, or fade away. H is for Haiku begins, appropriately, with Adventure and its dreamy memory for a worn-out kitten as he slumbers.

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Image copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2018, text copyright Sydell Rosenberg, 2018. Courtesy of Penny Candy Books.

The journey continues as readers meander along a city sidewalk and see a “Boy on a mailbox / perched like a solitary bird / watching the sunset.” Walking on, readers peek into car backseats, queue for ice-cream on a sweaty summer day, and visit a barbershop where you always ask for Xavier. Down country lanes, you’ll spy a pale moon, turn the heads of sunflowers, share bike rides and car rides, and watch as “Munching on acorns / a squirrel sweeps up sunbeams / with her transparent tail.”

Rosenberg’s studied eye for connections makes her poems especially enchanting. Leaves and flowers, birds and insects, rain and thunder interact with those in their midst, adorning hair, scurrying away, playing musical backup, meeting danger, and creating transformations like the one at Y: “Yesterday’s cool rain / left this flat puddle smoothing / the wrinkled leaves.” A trip to the fish market is infused with humor, and an optical illusion makes you look twice at the flamingos in a pond.

Even in her observations of the routine, Rosenberg remind readers that there is music and poetry in common actions. For example, at U we hear: “Up and down the block / homeowners mate the covers / of gusted trash cans.” As a teacher sits grading papers to close out the book, readers can’t be faulted for wishing our alphabet had a few more letters.

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Image copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2018, text copyright Sydell Rosenberg, 2018. Courtesy of Penny Candy Books.

As a teacher Sydell Rosenberg was attuned to the spirit of children, and her sophisticated and fun haiku are particularly accessible for young readers. Touching on a wide range of subjects, Rosenberg invites kids to look and look again. Her keen observations and lilting imagery will inspire them to do just that.

Sawsan Chalabi’s charmingly quirky illustrations and stylized lettering present each poem with dash and personality that will enchant kids. Her delicately lined drawings are infused with vibrancy from a gorgeous color palette. Just like Rosenberg’s haiku, Chalabi’s pages are animated with a love for life that will resonate with kids—and adults.

H is for Haiku would make a terrific gift for poetry lovers and a wonderful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 11 (and up)

Penny Candy Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-0998799971

Discover more about Sawsan Chalabi and view a portfolio of her work on her website.

Meet Sydell Rosenberg and her daughter, Amy Losak

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Sydell Rosenberg and her daughter Amy enjoying the park n 1961.

SYDELL ROSENBERG (1929-1996) lived, wrote and taught in New York City. Syd was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968 and served as HSA’s Secretary in 1975. Her short poems – notably haiku and senryu – as well as other poetry, were published in various magazines and anthologies. Syd received her M.A. in English as a Second Language from Hunter College in 1972. It was Syd’s dream to publish a book of haiku for children.

Compiled by her daughter, Amy Losak, H is for Haiku is the fulfilment of the late poet Sydell Rosenberg’s dream to write a book of poetry for children. I was excited to talk with Amy about her mother, her journey with H is for Haiku, and her own poetry.

Can you talk a little about your mother and her love for haiku and senryu?

Sydell Rosenberg was a New York City teacher (various grades; substitute, English, literacy; and also adult ESL). I think Syd Rosenberg “discovered” haiku and senryu in the early-to-mid 1960s. How she may have stumbled upon these poetic forms, I wish I knew. Mom always was a writer – short stories, poetry, literary and word puzzles, and more. Syd wrote in English and in Spanish and translated literature from and into Spanish too. In her early 20s, she published a racy novel, “Strange Circle,” under a male pseudonym, Gale Sydney (a reversal of the initials of her maiden name, Sydell Gasnick). This was in the early 1950s! This potboiler sold a respectable number of copies. In fact, “Strange Circle” is still floating around online.

In the 1960s, as a still-young wife and mother, perhaps she was restless and searching for a challenging format to test her talents and reflect, or give credence to, her singular way of viewing the world around her. Syd was a native New Yorker who loved nature and found marvels in mundane moments. Perhaps the lucid qualities of haiku and senryu, with their concise yet intense focus on such things, gave her—paradoxically—the amplitude she wanted to express her vision and ideas.

What is the difference between the two forms?

I’m no expert on haiku and senryu. Poets spend years studying and they labor over their work. These are difficult forms to write well. Like any creative art, it takes practice. It seems as though the definitions can get “in the weeds”—and then there are some poets who don’t get too “hung up” on the distinctions. Here are topline definitions from the Haiku Society of America, and readers can go to this Haiku Society of America page for more details:

The Haiku Foundation also is a great source of information, and there are many other fine resources in books, online and in social media.

HAIKU: A haiku is a short poem that uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition.

SENRYU: A senryu is a poem, structurally similar to haiku, that highlights the foibles of human nature, usually in a humorous or satiric way.

Were the poems in H is for Haiku originally written as an alphabet-inspired collection?

Yes, some of the poems in H Is for Haiku were in one (or more, possibly) alphabet-themed manuscripts I located among mom’s many materials. And some were previously published in journals decades ago.

It was Syd’s lifelong dream to publish a book of haiku for children. Can you talk about the journey you’ve taken with H Is for Haiku?

Mom was submitting at least one of her kids’ poetry manuscripts (I’m not sure how many she created, and I don’t think they were all haiku) to publishers since the 1980s. My fuzzy memory tells me she may have submitted as far back as the 1970s. This has been a long and zigzagging timeline, by any measure.

Mom’s poetry was well-anthologized in a variety of media over several decades (including classic texts such as The Haiku Anthology, The Haiku Handbook, The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms, among others). Syd was a teacher, and she had this desire to publish a poetry picture book, preferably a haiku A-B-C reader. I think she wanted kids to illustrate it, although she also had illustrators she liked in mind (in one old cover letter I found, she mentions Arnold Lobel).

After her sudden death in October of 1996, her family promised to try and publish her dream book. But it wasn’t until around 2011 that I knuckled down—and even then, the process of collecting and organizing some of her work was, to be frank, tortuous. But I managed to curate a good compilation.

In the meantime, I spearheaded other projects to revive some of her work for today’s audiences, especially children. For example, I’ve been in a partnership for several years with a terrific nonprofit arts education organization in NY, Arts for All which brings a variety of arts programs into public schools. Teaching artists have used mom’s “word-picture” haiku to convey the basics of painting, drawing and collage; music; and theater to young students.

In 2015, I finally started to send out her manuscript to publishers that didn’t require agents. In 2016, I connected with the wonderful Penny Candy Books, thanks to a poet and teacher, Aubrie Cox Warner. Penny Candy’s Chad Reynolds and Alexis Orgera have been such a joy; and Sawsan Chalabi’s dynamic illustrations vividly augment the gentle playfulness in mom’s poems.

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Syd was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America. Can you talk about her work with the HSA?

 HSA celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Syd attended the founding meeting in October of 1968. She also served as HSA secretary in 1975 and twice on committees for HSA’s Merit Book Awards “for excellence in published haiku, translation and criticism.” Of course, mom’s work was published in HSA’s beautiful journal, Frogpond, and a good number of other journals and publications, including (but not limited to) Modern Haiku, Wind Chimes, and Haiku West. HSA memorialized Syd by reading some of her work shortly after her death in 1996. In addition, Frogpond published a lovely memorial page in its December 1996 issue. It also published one of her posthumous haiku in a 1997 issue. Her first published haiku in a journal was in 1967 in American Haiku (although I believe she may have published haiku even earlier, in the poetry column of a now-defunct newspaper).

HSA and all things haiku—and writing overall—were important, even essential, components of her life. Creative expression was aa important to her as breathing.

The haiku in H Is for Haiku have such a wonderful sense of active observation and eye for personality and fun. Do you remember this as a quality of your mom while you were growing up?

Yes! Mom had a playful, offbeat, and I think an innate optimistic spirit. Mom was a “knowledge-adventurer.” Her intellect sometimes had an almost childlike quality. She tried to instill this expansive sense of curiosity in my brother Nathan and me. I have come to realize that mom looked forward to each new day as jam-packed with the possibilities for new experiences. And she sought them out for herself and her family.

I read that you also write poetry. Can you share a little about your work?

I’m a beginner as a poet. I think I always will be, and I’m fine with this. There’s a lot to learn.

I especially enjoy the process of trying to write haiku and senryu. It allows me to “be in the moment” and dial down distracting “chatter” that can bombard and dull my senses. Some of my work has been published. I’m slowly improving.

Thanks to social media, I find inspiration in the work of other poets today, especially haiku and senryu poets (and others, as well). There’s so much great poetry out there! I also have learned to find “bits” of inspiration in my daily life. Our pixilated cats, for example, were a wellspring of inspiration! And New York City, of course, offers an inexhaustible supply of both small and big moments. Even something as routine as my bus commute can sometimes trigger “slices” of awareness that lead to a short poem. Or I will be walking to the bagel shop for an iced coffee, and something out of nowhere—the peep of a sparrow in a forsythia bush, a squashed pine cone on the pavement—will draw my attention. Maybe this “haiku moment” will result in a poem. Or maybe not, but I’m still richer because of these “slivers” of experience.

And mom, it turns out, has had more of an influence on me that either one of us could have imagined. Syd’s spirit resonates today. I like to think she would be pleased with this book. And of course, kids and their parents!

The poetry and kidlit communities are caring and supportive. I’m grateful for all their encouragement over the years. And I’m grateful to my husband, Cliff, brother, Nathan; sister-in-law, Debbie; other loving family members; friends; colleagues, etc. So many terrific people! They’ve kept me going, and I can’t thank them enough.

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You can find H is for Haiku at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Penny Candy Books

Haiku Poetry Day Activity

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Haiku Wall Art

 

The haiku you write deserves to be shared with others! With this easy craft you can display your poem in style.

Supplies

  • Colorful heavy stock paper, 2 or three colors
  • Ribbon
  • Glue or glue dots, or double-sided tape
  • Dowel or wire for hanging
  • Paint to paint the dowel (optional)

Directions

  1. Write a haiku and print the lines on colored paper
  2. Cut the lines apart, making the first and third line shorter than the second line
  3. Glue or tape the lines to the ribbon, leaving about a half inch between them
  4. To make the hangers, fold the tops of the ribbon over and glue or tape it closed
  5. If using a dowel to hold the poem, you can paint it to match or contrast with the paper
  6. Hang the poem from a dowel or wire

Picture Book Review

 

 

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April 16 – It’s National Humor Month

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About the Holiday

There may be no more infectious sound than the tinkle or guffaw of a good laugh. Laughter is therapeutic and can make tough times a little easier. Kids, it seems, are born with the ability to see and appreciate the silliness, absurdity, and fun in life. This month, enjoy the zany side of things—it’s guaranteed to brighten your days and give you a new perspective.

The Book of Mistakes

By Corinna Luyken

 

The whole thing started while drawing a picture. The head of the child looks good—nice little ear and nose, a dot for the left eye. The hair goes on pretty well—a swoop on the right side, straight on the left. The eyebrows are tiny dashes, and the mouth the size of a chocolate sprinkle. Just have to add the right eye…Oh, no! The right eye is too big!! Okay, okay, this mistake can be fixed. The left eye just needs to be a liiittle bigger…Oh, good grief! “Making the other eye even bigger was another mistake.”

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Copyright Corinna Luyken, 2017, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Maybe…the perspective might just be right for…Yes! “the glasses—they were a good idea.” Okay on to the body. Hmmm… “The elbows and the extra-long neck? Mistakes. But the collar—ruffled, with patterns of lace and stripes—that was a good idea.” And elbow patches make the arms look a little less pointy.

Moving on to the background, a thick and leafy bush is just the thing to hide the animal. Animals? It could be a cat, a cow, or a frog. “Another mistake.” And why is the ground so far below the girl’s feet anyway? Oh! Because she’s wearing roller skates. Nice save! “Those were definitely not a mistake.” Let’s see, the “second frog-cat-cow thing made a very nice rock.” Now, what about the other girl with long hair and one very long leg? Got it! She “looks like she always meant to be climbing that tree” on the side of the page.

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Copyright Corinna Luyken, 2017, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The ink smudges at the top of the paper can be leaves, but back to the roller-skating girl. What to do with those awkwardly positioned arms? Oh dear—the pen should not have been hovering over the page. How to fix the splotch on the side of her head? Ah-hah! An old-fashioned aviator’s helmet. Or is it a swimming cap? No matter…she’s now holding a yellow balloon in her left hand and lots of strings in her right. Wow, tons of yellow balloons are at the ends of those strings!

She’s skating toward the tree with the long-legged girl, and there are a bunch of other kids playing in it too. Cool! They’re all wearing aviator helmets/swimming caps too. Some are wearing roller skates—good—and they’re erecting some kind of tent over a big branch. Wow! Look at the pink balloons and the green ones! There’s a kid riding a hot-air unicycle through the sky and a skateboarder is floating down to a ramp supported by springs in the top of the tree. Someone’s even tatting a lace banner.

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Copyright Corinna Luyken, 2017, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

“Do you see?” They’re all waiting for the roller-skating girl to bring the yellow balloons. But let’s step back a little. “Do you see—how with each mistake she is becoming?” If we back up some more, she and the tree look so tiny and there’s a big, dark forest in the foreground. “Do you see—” Looking from way far away, doesn’t that forest look a bit like curly hair or…Oh! The top of the roller-skating girl’s cap! She’s so big now, and she’s gazing out of those green glasses at the white page where she’s drawing a small head with a nice little ear and nose and a dot for the left eye. “Do you see—who she could be?”

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Copyright Corinna Luyken, 2017, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Kids will be charmed by the start of the little head on the first page, begin giggling at the one too-big eye on the third page, and laugh out loud at the even bigger eye on the fifth in Corinna Luyken’s magically inventive The Book of Mistakes. As each mistake is adjusted for or inspires a new twist in the story, young readers will appreciate how creatively right the fix is and look forward to the next mistake and the next. The final pages presenting the tree full of children are so enticing that readers will want to linger over each one to find all the details. Luyken’s minimally colored drawings are funny and endearing and lead readers to question their own perspective and give free reign to their imagination.

The Book of Mistakes is a must for classrooms and highly recommended for home libraries for all those times when mistakes can be perfect conversation starters or the inspiration for…anything!

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0735227927

To find a portfolio of artwork and more information about Corinna Luyken and her books visit her website.

National Humor Month Activity

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Share a Laugh! Word Search Puzzle

 

Sharing a laugh with friends makes a day better. Can you find the fifteen words about laughter in this puzzle?

Share a Laugh! Word Search PuzzleShare a Laugh! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review

April 15 – National Rubber Eraser Day

The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that little item at the end of the pencil or near at hand that gives us second (or third…or fourth…or…) chances. The rubber eraser has been around since 1770, when Joseph Priestly invented a vegetable gum that could remove pencil marks and Edward Nairne developed it into an eraser that could be widely marketed. In 1839 Charles Goodyear’s work with vulcanization made erasers more durable, and Hyman Lipman put pencil and eraser together in 1858. What did people do before the rubber eraser? They still made mistakes, but wax and even crustless bread were the remedies of choice. To celebrate today, draw or write with abandon and feel free to erase as often as you want!

The Pencil

Written by Allan Ahlberg | Illustrated by Bruce Ingman

 

Even before the title page readers learn of a little pencil, alone in the world. One day the pencil quivers and begins to draw. The pencil draws a boy, who asks for a name, and receives “Banjo” in reply. The boy wants a dog, and the pencil obliges. Bruce is the dog’s name, and he wants a cat. Mildred is immediately created, and of course Bruce chases Mildred. Banjo chases Bruce. They need a place to run, so the pencil draws a house, a town, and a park.

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Image copyright Bruce Ingman, 2012, text copyright Allan Ahlberg, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

All this excitement makes the trio hungry and tired. Banjo demands the pencil draw him an apple, Bruce wants a bone, and Mildred really wants a mouse but settles for cat food. There’s just one problem—the food is so unappetizing in black and white. The pencil thinks for a bit and comes up with a solution. He draws a paintbrush named Kitty. Kitty colors the food, the boy, the dog, the house, the town, and the park. Mildred is left as created – she’s a black-and-white cat anyway.

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Image copyright Bruce Ingman, 2012, text copyright Allan Ahlberg, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The team of Pencil and Paintbrush creates a whole family, a friend for Bruce, a ball (Sebastian) for Banjo, and a kitten for Mildred. But all these extra characters cause trouble. Sebastian breaks a window, and the mom, dad, sister, and grandpa aren’t completely satisfied with the traits they’ve been given. What’s a pencil to do? Draw an Eraser, of course!

The eraser takes care of the problems, but he grows fond of his power to rub things out. He erases the table, chair, front door—the whole house. And that’s not all! Nothing the Pencil and Paintbrush have created is safe. Eraser rubs everything out until all that’s left is the pencil and the eraser locked in opposition.

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Image copyright Bruce Ingman, 2012, text copyright Allan Ahlberg, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The pencil draws a wall, a cage, a river and mountains with fierce animals but none of it is a match for the eraser. Then the pencil has a brainstorm and draws…another eraser! The two erasers engage in an epic battle, and in the end they rub each other out.

Pencil recreates everything he had before, and Kitty colors it all in, including a new picnic with a runaway boiled egg named Billy and ten A-named ants to clean up the crumbs. As the day fades into night, a moon appears in the sky along with a cozy box for Pencil and Paintbrush to sleep in.

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Image copyright Bruce Ingman, 2012, text copyright Allan Ahlberg, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Allen Ahlberg is a master at tapping into children’s unbridled imagination and silly side. His endearing story of a little pencil who creates himself a world full of friends and excitement—as well as the inevitable conflict—will keep kids laughing with its word play, topsy-turvy names, and mad-dash action. As the eraser rubs out everything in its path, kids will also understand the gentle, underlying  lesson that simply getting rid of a problem can sometimes just create more and that resolution is a better tact.

Bruce Ingman’s sly, childlike illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Ahlberg’s story, deftly depicting the friendship and collaboration between Pencil and Paintbrush as they create house and its family with a mom sporting a crazy hat, a dad with large ears, and a grandpa smoking a pipe he doesn’t want. As Eraser begins his rampage, readers will enjoy the giddy suspense of how it will all end and will be happy to see that Paintbrush once again fills the pages with joyous and vivid color.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2012 | ISBN 978-0763660888

National Rubber Eraser Day Activity

CPB - Pencil Maze

Pencil It In! Maze

 

Sharpen your pencil and start having fun with this printable pencil-shaped maze. 

Pencil It In Puzzle!  | Pencil It In! Solution

Picture Book Review

April 14 – National Look up at the Sky Day & Interview with Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson

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Today, I’m honored to speak with retired astronaut Clayton Anderson about a pivotal childhood moment that inspired his life’s work, the challenges of being an astronaut, and his most vivid memories from space.  

What inspired you to make the journey to become an astronaut?

It was Christmas Eve, 1968.  I was nine years old when my parents put my brother and sister and me on the floor in front of a black-and-white TV around midnight. We sat on an old throw-rug gifted from our grandmother to watch humans circumvent the moon for the first time in human history. As I watched the control center team and listened to the flight director bark out commands, I was enthralled. “I need a Go/NoGo for the trans-lunar injection burn… FIDO? GO!  Retro…? GO!  Surgeon…? GO!  GPO…? GO! The entire team was GO! The craft disappeared behind the moon, leaving me to enjoy the rapid-fire chatter no more. It was simple static on our TV… for about 15 minutes. Then, after a couple of non-answered calls from the Houston CAPCOM to the Apollo 8 crew, I heard the quindar tone (famous “space-beep” you hear on TV), and the first words from the Apollo 8 commander, Frank Borman: “Houston, Apollo 8. Please be informed there is a Santa Claus!” That’s all I needed. The bit was set in my mind that one day, I would become a United States Astronaut.

How did your perspectives change while on the International Space Station?

I am a man of faith. Seeing our earth from orbit did allow me to have the “orbital perspective” so many astronauts speak of. However, while I totally agree that this perspective changed my outlook and my willingness to do better with trying to protect and preserve our “spaceship earth,” it strengthened my faith in God much more. The earth and those of us privileged to be on it, is not random. There is a reason why Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity and invented calculus. There is a reason why Albert Einstein was able to derive the Theory of Relativity. While I am unable to truly explain my rationale, I believe that there is a higher power. A power that created this universe and gave humans an adaptable brain. That incredible gift will continue to enable us to uncover the secrets of the universe, continuing to strengthen my faith.

What was a big challenge you faced during your career?

The dream of flying in space as an American astronaut was something I pursued for many years of my life. To have finally been selected and given that opportunity is incredible. Yet having the “best job in the universe” is not without difficulty. For me, it was family separation. I love my wife and kids more than anyone… on or off the planet.  To have to be separated from them for months at a time was extremely difficult, especially given their ages (6 and 2) when I began my training. It got easier as they grew older, but it didn’t assuage my guilt very much. While I lived my dream, they sacrificed greatly, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to repay them.

What is your best memory from being in space?

It must be my first spacewalk. Poised above the opened hatch, floating in my spacesuit while looking into the abyss of darkness created by the sun’s travel behind the Earth, I was calm. I watched ice crystals fly from behind my suit (they were created by my sublimator… or air conditioning unit) into the total black void of space. The slight pressure still available after the depressurization of the airlock was “pushing” the crystals into the vacuum of space. I was entranced just watching them sail by. When I finally came back to reality—buoyed by the Mission Control call to exit the airlock—I paused for just a moment to contemplate what was happening. The only thought going through my mind was that “…I was born to be here, right now, in this special place, doing this.”

Seeing my hometown from space…for the very first time, is a very, very close second. On that day, when I expected to excitedly capture photos of my Ashland, Nebraska, I had everything prepped and ready to go. Equipment was strategically placed around the U.S. Lab module’s earth-facing window, cameras were Velcroed securely to the wall, with timers set to remind me when to get into position. Finding my home on earth—without all the wonderfully placed lines, borders, squiggly river italics, and large stars designating capital cities—was tougher than I imagined. But when I finally found success, and saw Nebraska rolling into view by virtue of a big gray splotch known as Omaha (and a smaller gray splotch further southwest called Lincoln), the south bend of the Platte River was the last valid vision I had. When I saw my home, nestled there where the river bent, the place where I was raised and where many of my family and friends still reside, I took not a single photo. I simply broke down and cried. Overcome by the incredible emotions of floating weightlessly, as an American astronaut flying 225 miles above the exact spot where I was born and raised, having first dreamed of doing exactly that, was simply too much for me. So, I did what seemed to come to me naturally.  I wept.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories of your incredible career. I wish you all the best with A is for Astronaut and all of your future endeavors as you inspire children and adults to always reach for the stars.

About Clayton C. Anderson

Retired Astronaut Clayton Anderson spent 167 days in outer space, having lived and worked on the International Space Station (ISS) for 152 days and participated in nearly 40 hours of space walks. With a strong belief in perseverance and the importance of STEAM as part of every child’s education, Astronaut Anderson brings his “out of this world” insight to issues faced by children, parents, and educators. 

You can connect with Clayton Anderson on:

His website: astroclay.com | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter. For speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

You can find A is for Astronaut at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sleeping Bear Press

National Look up at the Sky Day Review

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday hopes to inspire people to slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures—like gazing up at the sky and really seeing the beauty that’s there. Throughout the day and night, the sky presents an ever-changing world of color and motion, depth and light. It’s a work of art like no other.  Ever since the earliest times, people have been fascinated with the sky, directed by the stars, and questioning of what lies beyond. Today, we also celebrate those poets, mathematicians, scientists, and especially the astronauts who have explored the sky and brought all of its wonders a little closer.

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of A is for Astronaut to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of a signed copy of A is for Astronaut and a tote bag. View details below.

A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet

Written by Astronaut Clayton Anderson | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

There are some books that just make you say “Wow!” when you open the cover. A is for Astronaut is one of these. Leafing through the pages is like stepping out into a clear, starry night, visiting a space museum, and letting your own dreams soar all rolled into one. When you settle in to read, you discover that each letter of the alphabet introduces both poetry and facts to enthrall space lovers.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

To get things started, “A is for Astronaut, / the bravest of souls. / They fly into space / and assume many roles. / They pilot, they spacewalk, / and they even cut hair. / But seeing Earth from our orbit— / that will cause them to stare!” A sidebar reveals more about astronauts—even astronaut nicknames!

“B is for Blastoff, a powerful thing! / When those engines are fired, it’ll make your ears ring.” And did you know that two and a half minutes after blastoff, the engines are cut off and everything begins to float? Pretty amazing! Blasting through the alphabet we come to G, where readers learn about our Galaxy that is “shaped like a spiral filled with billions of stars.”

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

How are astronauts able to walk and work in space? “Space Helmets are crucial and H is their letter.” At K kids meet John F. Kennedy, who helped develop the space program, and L is for the Landing that brings astronauts back to Earth. M is for Meteors with their very long tails, and N, of course, is for NASA, which was formed in 1958 with a “goal to better understand our planet and solar system.”

How do astronauts do that? “Working outside in space is sure to impress. / We call it a Space Walk, and its letter is S. / Floating weightless, with tools and a bulky white suit, / we can fix and install things—it’s really a hoot!” And there’s also V for  “Voyager, two NASA space probes. / They are still sending data, / having long left our globe.”

At Z, time is up—that’s Zulu time and “our reference to England, when London’s clocks chime. / As we fly ‘round the Earth, folks must know our day’s plan, / so we all set our watches to match that time span.” 

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2018, text copyright Clayton C. Anderson, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Both children and adults who have an affinity for space travel and all things related to astronomy will want to dip into A is for Astronaut again and again. With his wealth of knowledge and engaging voice, astronaut Clayton Anderson presents a book that will have readers starry-eyed and full of the kinds of facts and tidbits that answer questions and spur further discovery. A is for Astronaut can be read through from A to Z for its vivid poetry or explored in small chunks to absorb the fascinating facts included with each letter—or both. Expertly written for kids of all ages, Anderson’s A is for Astronaut is a stellar achievement.

Scott Brundage’s incredibly beautiful and detailed illustrations will thrill space buffs and serious scientists and engineers alike. Readers will love meeting astronauts tethered to their ship while working in space, experiencing the vibrant, mottled colors of a darkened sky or distant planet, and viewing the technological marvel that is the NASA control room. With the precision of a photograph and the illumination of true artistry, Brundage’s images put readers in the center of the action, where they can learn and understand more about this favorite science.

A is for Astronaut is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries and would be a favorite on home bookshelves for children (and adults) who love space, technology, math, science, and learning about our universe.

Ages 5 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363964

Discover more about retired astronaut Clayton Anderson and access resources on his website, or follow him on Facebook | Twitter | or Insta. For speaking events and appearances visit www.AstronautClayAnderson.com

To learn more about Scott Brundage and view a portfolio of his publishing and editorial work, visit his website.

Visit Sleeping Bear Press to learn more about A is for Astronaut

National Look up at the Sky Day Activity

 

Show your excitement about all things space-related with these fun activity sheets from Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson and Sleeping Bear Press! 

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A is for Astronaut Fill in the Blanks

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A is for Astronaut Vocabulary Sheet

 

Picture Book Review

April 13 – National Make Lunch Count Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage American workers to get away from their desk and eat lunch out with friends and coworkers. Taking a break from the office and spending lunchtime having a little fun or over a stimulating conversation can rejuvenate you for the rest of the day. Many people have also embraced the holiday as a way to remind themselves and others to eat healthy and make what they make (or order) nutritious and beneficial. To celebrate, make lunch an adventure today. You might even decide to try something new—like the little girls in today’s book!

The Sandwich Swap

Written by Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio | Illustrated by Tricia Tusa 

 

Salma and Lily were best friends. At school they did everything together in the classroom and on the playground. They also ate lunch together every day. They loved all the same things—until it came to what was packed in their lunchboxes. Lily always had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and Salma always had a hummus and pita sandwich.

While Lily never said so, she thought Salma’s sandwich looked yucky, and Salma kept quiet about her opinion that Lily’s sandwich seemed gross. But one day, Lily did say what she’d been thinking. Salma couldn’t believe her ears. She frowned and “looked down at the thin, soft bread. She thought of her beautiful smiling mother as she carefully cut Salma’s sandwich into two neat halves that morning.” First she felt hurt; then she felt mad.

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Image copyright Tricia Tusa, 2010, text copyright Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Salma let Lily know just how gross and icky-smelling she thought Lily’s sandwich was. “Lily looked surprised. She sniffed the thick, squishy bread, and she thought of her dad in his silly apron whistling” as he cut her sandwich into triangles. After that the two girls did not play or draw together. And the next day, they ate at separate tables. The story of Salma and Lily’s argument had spread, and the other kids chose sides. In the cafeteria, they lobbed insults, calling each other “jelly heads” and “chick pea brains.”

Pretty soon there were shouts of “you’re weird” and “you dress dumb.” It wasn’t long before someone yelled “Food Fight!” and peanut butter, hummus, and all types of sandwiches flew through the air. “They stuck to the walls. They stuck to the ceiling. They stuck to the lunch lady.” Before anyone knew it, pudding cups and applesauce and carrot sticks were soaring through the air.

Lily and Salma gazed at each other across the mess and “felt ashamed by what they saw.” After they helped clean it all up and were sent to the principal’s office, they felt even worse. The next day, Lily and Salma once again sat across from each other during lunch. At last Lily said, “‘Would you like to try a bite of my peanut butter and jelly?” Salma said that she would and offered Lily a nibble of her hummus sandwich. Lily agreed.

On the count of three, Lily and Salma tried each other’s sandwiches. “Yummy! Mmmmm!” they both said, and then they traded sandwiches. After lunch they met with the principal again to tell her an idea they’d had. And on a sunny day, the school held a picnic where everyone shared their favorite lunch from their native country.

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Image copyright Tricia Tusa, 2010, text copyright Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio. Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

The school lunchroom with its unique dynamics is a perfect setting for Queen Rania Al Abdullah and Kelly DiPuccio’s story that highlights the kinds of prejudice children can encounter whether for food choices or other differences. The inclusion of Salma’s and Lily’s thoughts about their parents is a poignant reminder of how profound and complex children’s emotions are. The humor and honesty in the girls’ relationship, thoughts, and argument as well as the food fight will resonate with readers. Salma’s and Lily’s decision to renew their friendship and try each other’s lunches and to share their revelation with their classmates leads to the kind of growth we all want for our kids.

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Tricia Tusa’s delicate and soft-hued mixed-media illustrations portray the joys of being best friends as Lily and Salma draw, swing, jump rope, and eat lunch together in beautiful two-page spreads. When their true feelings about each other’s sandwiches comes out, the girls are clearly reflective and then hurt and angry as they scowl nose to nose. The food fight is a double-spread free-for-all that will make kids laugh as the lunch lady seems to take the brunt of the flying food. The final gate-fold scene of the multicultural picnic is heartwarming.

The Sandwich Swap is a terrific read at home and in the classroom, especially near the beginning of the school year. The book is also a wonderful prelude to a classroom or school-wide multicultural day or food fair.

Ages 3 – 7

Disney-Hyperion, 2010 | ISBN 978-1423124849

Learn more about Queen Rania Al Abdulla of Jordan and her global advocacy on her website.

Discover more about Kelly DiPucchio and her books on her website.

Get to know Tricia Tusa and view a portfolio of her books and art on her website.

Make Lunch Count Day

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Personalized Lunch Container

 

Take your lunch to school or work in style with this quick and easy craft! All you need is a plastic sandwich or food container, some permanent markers, and your creativity!

Picture Book Review