April 17 – International Haiku Poetry Day

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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.”

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

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 reminds 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 will spark a love for this special form of poetry and inspire kids to write their own. A terrific gift for poetry lovers and an imagination-boosting addition to homeschool lessons, the book makes 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.

 Amy Losak talks about her mom, Sydell Rosenberg

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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.

Thanks, Amy, for sharing so much about your mom. I wish you all the best with H is for Haiku and your own work.

International 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

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You can find H is for Haiku at these booksellers:

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

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January 1 – Z Day

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About the Holiday

On this first day of the year it seems fitting to let the last letter of the alphabet shine. Today all of those with last names that start with Z get to move to the front row and the front of the line! You might get creative with your celebrations and eat only foods that start with Z—ziti and zucchini sound good, buy a zipper or something zany, read a zine about zombies, and of course go to the zoo to see the zebra!

AlphaOops! The Day Z Went First

Written by Alethea Kontis | Illustrated by Bob Kolar

 

The letter A stands on a little pedestal holding aloft an apple. “A is for app—,” she starts, but is suddenly interrupted by Z, who states, “Zebra and I are SICK of this last-in-line stuff! This time we want to go first!” Y is all for this change and wants to give it a try. Z jumps on the pedestal, and with pride and a prop reveals, “Z is for zebra.” Next up is Y and with her knitting on her lap says, “Y is for yarn.” Although X is a bit wrapped up in Y’s craft, he still manages to plonk out, “X is for xylophone.”

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, text copyright Alethea Kontis, 2012. Courtesy of candlewick.com

W spouts off that “W is for whale, and P, lounging in swimming ring, is happy to tell you that P is for penguins as two of the little fellows toddle nearby.” Wait a minute! P doesn’t come after W…or is it before W? Hmm…This is getting confusing. V wants her rightful place and confronts P, but P brings up the point that no matter how the alphabet runs, some letters “are still stuck in the middle.” N agrees, and M takes off running “closer to the end, just to mix it up a bit.”

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, courtesy of bobkolarbooks.com

A is perturbed by this whole state of affairs, but Z is excited. O takes over with “owl,” and N flies off in the “night.” H takes the spotlight with a tall stack of hats while G waits in the wings whispering, “H, dear, it’s not our turn yet!” A is now fuming. H, however, is happy with her usual lot in life, and R, leaning on her rainbow-colored umbrella, agrees. Z is jumping! “Go wherever you want! Just hurry up, or we’ll never get to the end.” S rushes off to be ready for the page turn where he wrangles a snake above his head. I is chased by insects, V plays the violin, and J runs away with a jack-o’-lantern.

E blasts off toward Earth, where “F is for flowers. And fairies.” Hold on there a minute! V is upset: “Hey, I didn’t get to pick two things. I think I should get another turn.” X, on the other hand seems ok with it because he doesn’t “have much to choose from.” All this fuss is making Z crazy. He just wants things to move along.

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, courtesy of bobkolarbooks.com

Ok, then…the next letters get in line. “T is for taxi and train. L is for lemons and lollipops. K is for kangaroo and kites. And C is for cat and canary in cages.” V is back, inserting and asserting herself with a vacuum in hand, a volcano in the background, a vulture lurking, and valentines scattered about. But Z yanks her away as G says, “Ooh, V is for violence.”

R gets his chance to pop open his umbrella, D fights a dragon, and G frolics with a great gorilla. B gets a bevy of words that make a big mess. M dashes away from a monster, and Q is queen for the day. And that’s that, right? Is it? It’s kind of hard to tell. Z shouts through a megaphone, “Has everyone had their turn?” No! It seems U has been in the bathroom since P.

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, text copyright Alethea Kontis, 2012. Courtesy of candlewick.com.

U is uncertain whether the other letters still want her, but they usher her to the podium. Finally, it is A’s turn, but where is she? “Yikes!” exclaims Y and it’s easy to see why. A has been rounding up the words! Twenty-two of them, in fact—23 if you count “and.” The other letters cheer, and Z says he’s sorry for being bossy, to which A says, “apology accepted.”

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, courtesy of bobkolarbooks.com

Alethea Kontis’s classic alphabet romp is a hilarious, personality filled celebration of the 26 letters that compose our language. As Z’s mixed up experiment goes awry, the letters’ sassy and squabbling comments make for laugh-out-loud reading. Sly wordplay adds to the fun, making this an alphabet book that older kids will enjoy as well. Subtle lessons on cooperation, teamwork, acceptance, and inclusion give readers of AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First lots to discuss while enjoying the show.

Bob Kolar’s bold, bright, and enthusiastic letters nearly pop off the page. Their expressive eyes and mouths display their excitement, distress, pride, and other emotions as the status quo is shaken up by Z. As each letter gets their turn, Kolar infuses the page with visual puns. For example, I is being chased by “insects,” that also happen to be bees (Bs?). His clever choices of nouns allow for discussion of other forms of the words too—as when S juggles a snake that…well…snakes above him. Kids will love lingering over the illustrations to find all of the jokes and letter-related images and to make sure that all of the letters get their due.

AlphaOops! The Day Z Went First is so much more than an alphabet book. Adding it to any child’s bookshelf will suit them to a T.

Ages 3 – 8

Candlewick, 2012 | ISBN 978-0763660840

To discover more about Alethea Kontis and her books for kids and older readers as well as book-related activities, visit her website!

Find a gallery of picture book art, personal art, and other projects by Bob Kolar on his website!

Z Day Activity

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Zing! Goes My Heart Word Search Puzzle

 

Find the 20 words that begin with the letter Z in this printable heart-shaped Zing! Goes My Heart Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Alpha Oops! The Day Z Went First at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 1 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday was established to get families excited about reading. As the weather turns cooler and activities turn indoors, reading together is a wonderful way to spend time having fun and making memories. Small children love being read to—and so do older kids! Sharing board books, picture books and chapter books that can be read at one sitting is always fun. Taking the journey of a novel together with tweens and teens can provide inspiring, emotional, funny, and bonding moments that last a lifetime. And to think, it all starts with putting a few letters together…

Can U Save the Day?

Written by Shannon Stocker | Illustrated by Tom Disbury

 

The letter A was chatting with a frog, a duck, and a dog when the letter B ambled by with a boastful claim: “‘There are 5 vowels in your group / but 21 in our grand troop. / I’m a more important letter. / Consonants are so…much…better!’” As B continued to brag, A countered with “‘…You’ll regret / when all the vowels are gone, I bet!’” Then just like that A vanished, and the dog? He could only “‘brk.’” The duck said “‘quck,’” and the frog could only “‘crok.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The horse was not very sympathetic since his neigh didn’t need an A. But then the E decided to go, and the horse said “‘nigh’” the “birds sang ‘twt,’ and the sheep could only “‘blt,’” “‘blt,’” “‘blt.’” The consonants thought this was lots of laughs. “Insulted, young I spun her dot / and soared off like an astronaut.” The pig was stuck as was the horse, but the cow and bunny joined the laughter until O rolled away. Then the cow, the pigeons, and the rooster struggled too.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The consonants were laughing still when B and U saw the tractor plowing toward them in its sleep. B tried to scream and shout but could only burble. He bounced into the tractor’s seat and “pushed the horn! The horn went…hnk.” He tried to make U understand, but without the vowels his words made no sense. But clever U had watched it all and she knew just what to do. “She bent her arms above her head / and turned into an O instead.”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In that moment the tractor’s horn went Honk! The runaway tractor woke up and stopped just in the nick of time. Then off U went to bring back A, E, I, and O. When they returned, the animals resumed their talk, the consonants and vowels hugged it out, and B, who had started it all, now realized that “‘the alphabet’s a family.’” Then Y—that sometimes this and sometimes that letter—decided this was a good time to speak up and help them all “‘say goodbye.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2019, text copyright Shannon Stocker, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Shannon Stocker gives kids just learning the alphabet, discovering how to read, and picking up some of the finer points of grammar a reason to celebrate in her funny story about the day the vowels flew the coop. Her peppy rhythm and brainy rhymes will keep readers riveted and laughing as one by one the animals’ talk turns into garbled goosh. When the sleeping tractor barrels toward the letters unaware because of his measly “hnk,” kids will be on the edge of their seats. When wily U uses her ingenuity and semi-circular shape to save the day, they’ll cheer. The sweet ending teaches gentle lessons about reconciliation, apologies, inclusion, and teamwork, and Y’s admission offers one more grammar-related giggle.

Tom Disbury’s cartoon characters will have kids in stitches as the animals gaze at each other with gritted teeth, furrowed brows, or tongues sticking out when their vowel-less utterances are less than robust. With their smiling eyes and winsome smiles, the colorful letters are oblivious to the mayhem that losing just four of their family members can cause. The shortened words sprinkled throughout the text as well as spreads of contented consonants will give readers plenty of opportunities to play word games and talk about letter combinations, letter sounds, and spelling.

A funny and entertaining way to talk about the alphabet and grammar, creative problem solving, and teamwork, as well as a fun story to share any time, Can U Save the Day? would be an entertaining addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364046

Discover more about Shannon Stocker and her books on her website.

To learn more about Tom Disbury, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Book Month Activity

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Reading is Super! Maze

 

This super reader wants to bring books to his friends so they can all read together. Can you help him get through this printable Reading is Super Maze to reach his friends?

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You can find Can U Save the Day? at these booksellers

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

September 24 – National Punctuation Day

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About the Holiday

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Rubin, National Punctuation Day promotes the correct usage of all those little marks that make reading clearer and more meaningful. Do you ever wonder just how to use the ; and what’s the real difference between – and —? It can all get a little confusing. But misplaced or misused punctuation can result in some pretty funny mistakes—or some serious misinterpretations. Whether you love punctuation, would like to understand it better, or just use it to make emojis, today’s holiday will make you : – ). To find information on the day, resources for using punctuation correctly, and a fun contest to enter, visit Jeff Rubin’s National Punctuation Day website.

The Day Punctuation Came to Town

Written by Kimberlee Gard | Illustrated by Sandie Sonke

 

The Punctuations had just moved to Alphabet City and the kids—Exclamation Point, Question Mark, Period, and Comma—were excited about their first day of school. Exclamation Point was in a rush to get there. “‘We are going to have so much fun!’” he said. He “was always excited about something.” Question Mark was a little more subdued. She wondered if the other kids would be nice and even pondered whether they were walking in the right direction. “Comma kept pausing,” and Period said she would let her siblings know when to stop.

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Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

When they got to school and introduced themselves, the student letters were confused. They’d never seen anyone like the Punctuations before. As the letters practiced forming words, Exclamation Point joined W, O, and W; Question Mark helped out W, H, and O; and “Period brought each sentence to a tidy end.” For Comma, though, it wasn’t so easy. As he tried to squeeze in between letters, he began to feel as if he was just a bother. Undetected, he tiptoed away.

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Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Meanwhile in the classroom, Exclamation Point had all the letters scrambling to make more and more exciting words. There was a lot of cheering and booming, ducking, and running. Question Mark asked if maybe they shouldn’t all quiet down a bit, but no one was listening. Even Period couldn’t get them to stop. Pretty soon, there was a huge word pileup. In the next moment it came crashing down and all the letters “tumbled through the door, spilling into the hall.” There, they found Comma, who just stared in disbelief. His siblings wondered why he was in the hall instead of in the classroom. Comma told them how he felt. But, “‘Comma, without you, things become a disaster!’” Exclamation Point said. Period and Question Mark agreed.

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Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Then his siblings gently reminded little Comma about how each member of their family has a certain purpose. They told him, “‘we all work together to help letters and the words they make.’” Once everyone had gone back into the classroom, the letters continued making words. But now Comma took his place between them. When the letters looked confused, he explained that it was his job to keep order and that words and punctuation needed each other to make good and clear sentences.

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Image copyright Sandie Sonke, 2019, text copyright Kimberlee Gard, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

For children just learning about sentence structure and how punctuation and words fit together to create meaning, Kimberlee Gard’s lively story helps them visualize and understand the different roles of each punctuation mark. Coming at the end of a sentence and accompanied by vocal clues, exclamation points, question marks, and periods are more familiar to kids. But what about that comma, which seems to float around here and there? Gard demonstrates that without the break commas provide, words run amok, becoming jumbled, unwieldy, and confusing. Readers will respond to the classroom setting, where the letters work and play together during lessons, and they will be eager to make friends with the Punctuation family themselves.

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If any readers think learning about punctuation is dry and dull, Sandie Sonke’s vibrant colors and cartoon characters will change their mind. The Punctuations (and their butterfly friend Apostrophy) are sweet and earnest, wanting to fit into the class and make a difference. As the letters form words, the purple Punctuations are easy for kids to pick out, allowing for discussion of their distinct roles. The tangled piles of letters invite kids to make words from the muddle. After Comma realizes his own importance and the letters embrace him, the story ends with a familiar and funny example of just how a well-placed comma can change the meaning of a sentence.

An entertaining and joyful accompaniment to grammar lessons to get kids excited about learning, The Day Punctuation Came to Town would be a rousing addition to classroom, homeschool, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701457

Discover more about Kimberlee Gard and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sandie Sonke, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Punctuation Day Activity

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Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search

 

Have fun finding the twelve types of punctuation in this printable puzzle!

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search Puzzle | Pick Out the Punctuation! Solution

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You can find The Day Punctuation Came to Town at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 20 – It’s National Sandwich Month

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About the Holiday

Did you know there are regulations to determine just what is and is not a sandwich? I didn’t either! It seems that the US Department of Agriculture has determined that for a… thing… to be considered a sandwich, it must contain at least 35% cooked meat and no more than 50% bread. So what about peanut butter? Or grilled cheese? Have we been playing fast and loose with the word “sandwich?” Oh well…. This month is dedicated to those delicious meals between bread that kids and adults take to school and the office, to picnics, and for quick noshes any time. To celebrate, there’s only one thing to do: build yourself the perfect sandwich—just like the little girl in today’s book!

Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich

Written by Linda Vander Heyden | Illustrated by Kayla Harren

 

“When Hannah was hungry and wanted to munch, / She’d stop at McDougal’s to order some lunch. / Now Hannah was tiny (in fact, quite petite), / But don’t let that fool you. Oh boy—could she eat!” When McDougal saw Hannah come through the door and order an “A to Z sandwich,” he wondered. And then, as Hannah recited the ingredients for her sandwich, he started to chop, mince, peel, and grate.

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Image copyright Kalya Harren, 2018, text copyright Linda Vander Heyden, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The first six ingredients were prepared and laid on the bread, then Hannah inspected it closely. “‘Green peppers,’ said Hannah. ‘Sliced thin, if you please. / And drizzle on lots of sweet honey from bees. / “‘Add ice cream and jelly—then ketchup (two plops), / A freshly squeezed lemon—just ten tiny drops.’” The sandwich grew taller and wider as Hannah looked around McDougal’s for more ingredients. She wanted a dollop of this, and “lots of nuts, too,” but she wasn’t too hungry, so she told him “one olive will do.”

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Image copyright Kalya Harren, 2018, text copyright Linda Vander Heyden, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

She directed more layers be added on top that included “‘a ride red tomato picked fresh off the vine. / And ugli fruit chopped up especially fine.’” Poor McDougal was working up such a sweat that he ended up with food in his hair. Was it done? the chef wondered, but Hannah wanted more. Just three little more additions for X, Y, and Z. Could McDougal do it? Could he finish that treat and give Hannah a sandwich she’d love to sit down and eat? You’ll see!

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Image copyright Kalya Harren, 2018, text copyright Linda Vander Heyden, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Linda Vander Heyden’s hilarious tribute to the sandwich—and the alphabet—will delight kids who love to experiment with food, kids who will eat anything, and even kids who are a little more discriminating in their diet choices. Heyden’s bouncy rhyme is a joy to read aloud, and kids will giggle and laugh out loud as each of the 26 ingredients are added to the towering sandwich. The combination of ingredients will produce plenty of fun “ewwws” as well as cheers as favorite foods are mentioned. A few foods that fill out the alphabetic order and are perhaps unfamiliar to readers will have kids doing a little research. The surprise ending will have kids and adults laughing, and you can bet that post-reading activities will include building a unique sandwich of their own.

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Kayla Harren’s red-haired, freckled Hannah is a mischievous cutie who knows exactly what she likes. As Hannah points out ingredients on the chef’s well-stocked shelves or “helps out” in the kitchen, McDougal’s skills are put to the test as he chops, minces, and grates with intensity surrounded by flying ingredients. As he adds just the perfect dollops of condiments to his masterpiece or gingerly places one olive on the slippery slope the sandwich has become, his eyes grow wide. Taking center stage, of course, is Hannah’s sandwich—an abstract work of art of various colors and textures. Watching this most unusual order come together is a full house of diverse customers, including a girl in a wheelchair. Various perspectives, the use of motion, and the exaggerated-but-spot-on facial expressions add to the exuberant fun.

Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich will be happily devoured by young readers. The book makes a terrific addition to home and classroom bookshelves and would be a rib-tickling back-to-school gift for kids or teachers.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363827

Discover more about Linda Vander Heyden and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kayla Harren, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Sandwich Month Activity

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Scrumptious Sandwiches Word Scramble 

 

Sandwiches are fun to build and delicious to eat! The only hard part is trying to figure out which kind to have. Maybe this list will help! Print this Scrumptious Sandwiches Puzzle and unscramble the names to pick your favorite. Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 1 – Canada Day

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About the Holiday

Today, we’re celebrating our neighbors to the north! With the signing of the Constitution Act on July 1, 1867, Canada became a new federation with its own constitution. The country’s distinctive red-and-white maple leaf flag—often claimed by vexillologists as one of the world’s most beautiful—flew over Parliament Hill for the first time on this day in 1965. With beautiful coastlines, rugged mountains, bustling cities, quaint towns, and warm, welcoming people, Canada is a wonderful place to live and makes a fantastic vacation destination!

C is for Canada

Written by Mike Ulmer | Illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault

 

What would you see if you decided to take an alphabet-inspired trip across the vast expanse that is the gorgeous country of Canada? Dip into this special ABC travel guide and find out! A great place to start is with the letter A, which stands for Aurora Borealis: “Look up into the nighttime sky / and see the colours dance on by. / The show takes place on cloudless nights; / Aurora Borealis means Northern Lights.” B happens to be for Beaver, Canada’s national symbol. This little animal is a perfect match for the country’s people because “…his heart is big; he’s always eager— / Canada is like that busy beaver.”

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Image copyright Sylvie Daigneault, 2017, text copyright Mike Ulmer, 2017. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Dino lovers (and, really, who isn’t?) will want to head for the Badlands of Alberta, where the letter D awaits in Drumheller, the Dinosaur capital of the world and home to the biggest dinosaur skeleton. If those beasts are too tame for you, you might like to try the open-air thrill of E at Edgewalk at the CN Tower. Can’t get enough of the outside? Then take in K for Klondike Days, a 10-day festival commemorating Edmonton’s role in the Klondike Gold Rush with food, music, rides, and booths.

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Image copyright Sylvie Daigneault, 2017, text copyright Mike Ulmer, 2017. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

While you’re here, you’ll use Canada’s beautifully designed money engraved with polar bears and the loons that give the coins their L nickname, Loonies: “The sound of it gives me a smile / when I add a coin every once in a while. / A loonie makes a lovely ‘clank’ / when dropped inside my piggy bank.” Of course no Canadian excursion is complete without M for Maple Leaf: “Our country’s like a maple tree— / we know the strongest limbs / are those with roots that reach around / the world and back again.”

If winter sports are your thing, then you’ll love N, which is for the National Hockey League. As hockey players well know, “To play in the NHL would be a thrill / but first I have to learn one skill. / I can skate very fast, I’m off like a shot— / I just need to learn the best way to stop.” Maybe you like to spend more time outdoors than at the rink. If so you might just see R for Rock Rabbits on a hike: “When a rock rabbit lets out a squeak, / it means it’s playing hide-and-seek. / And when it gives another cry, / it means it’s safe to go outside.”

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Image copyright Sylvie Daigneault, 2017, text copyright Mike Ulmer, 2017. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Two distinct areas are worth a peek at U and V. U is for Underwear—the special warm kind made in Truro: “We treasure pretty Truro, / I think we always will. / That’s where they make the long johns / that protect us from the chill.” V is for Victoria and all its grandeur: “There’s an ocean complete with oceanside / and carousels for kids to ride. / And a great hotel for weeklong stays / and bike trails you can ride for days.” And now we’ve come to the end of our alphabetic tour where Z is for Zero—or is it? “Zero isn’t zero; it tells you quite a lot. / Below is fairly chilly, above is really not. / Zero isn’t zero; it’s more vital than you think. / You need less than zero degrees to have yourself a rink.”

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Image copyright Sylvie Daigneault, 2017, text copyright Mike Ulmer, 2017. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

These are just a few of the highlights among the 26 letters and bright spots C is for Canada has to offer. Mike Ulmer’s verses provide tantalizing tidbits of descriptive and action-packed information for readers who want to learn more about this fascinating northern country. A glossary following the text gives more intriguing details about each letter’s subject.

Sylvie Daigneault’s vibrant illustrations are lovely companions for Ulmer’s verses and give young readers clear, up-close views of the people, places, animals, and history of Canada. Huskies frolic in the snow, caribou trot along a rocky lakeside while majestic mountains rise behind them, two science centre visitors have a hair-raising experience, and an old prospector pans for gold in the Yukon. Each snapshot will engage little armchair travelers and make their imaginations roam far from home.

And now, even the youngest Canadians and travelers can enjoy getting to know Canada from A to Z with the new board book edition! The small size makes it a great take-along too!

Ages 2 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369737 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1534110458 (Board book)

You can connect with Mike Ulmer on his blog!

View a gallery of illustration work by Sylvie Daigneault on her website!

Canada Day Activity

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Canada Coloring Pages

 

From its vivid red-and-white flag to its purple mountains, Canada is a colorful country! Here are three printable Canada Coloring Pages for you to enjoy!

Canadian Flag | Canadian Animals Coloring Page | Beaver Carrying Canadian Flag

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You can find C is for Canada at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 23 – It’s Mystery Month

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About the Holiday

The month of May is dedicated to mysteries! Established ten years ago by Booklist, part of the American Library Association, Mystery Month highlights all things mysterious and offers webinars, articles, awards, recommendations and more! Mysteries, with their unusual situations, puzzling clues, suspect suspects, and plenty of unexplained phenomena, are great for getting kids—even reluctant readers—to fall in love with books. With so many classic and new mysteries to investigate, this month’s celebration may just last all summer! And if you like your mysteries funny, you’ll love today’s book!

Betty’s Burgled Bakery: An Alliterative Adventure

By Travis Nichols

 

“Ahoy!” Antoine hails the caller to the control center when the red alert button lights up. He listens carefully as Betty the Panda describes the crime. “A bread bandit burgled by bakery before breakfast!” It seemed her “counters and cupboards were completely cleared of carrot cake, cornbread, and crackers. This is a considerable crummy crime,” she sums up with aptly punny indignation.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine is immediately on the case, calling in his detectives from their various pursuits to “dutifully deal with [the] distressing dilemma.” When they arrive at Betty’s Bakery, she shows them the empty shelves and is assured that they will “find the fully fed, fiendish foe.” The detectives fan out across the store and are surprised that anyone could have broken in without tripping the powerful security system.

Josie believes the “key to catching this kitchen crook” is in examining what they left behind—namely the “kale crumpets” and a cash register full of money. The gumshoes have been so hard at work trying to crack the case that Quentin has gone to the market next door and brought back snacks to sustain them. Everyone digs in, except Betty who’s “in need of nary a nibble.” When Morgan the chicken is finished with his snack, he inquires whether perhaps Betty didn’t hear something since she lives right above the bakery. But Betty, it seems, is a deep sleeper and heard nothing.  

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine looks around and has a quick question for Quentin about how long he thinks it would take to “acquire this quantity of baked goods.” Josie notices that the racks are so high that “no runt could ransack this room.” Meanwhile, Steve the monkey has discovered a clue. He thinks they could track the tooth marks in a tasty tart.

Steve is just about to match the distinctive notch in the half-eaten cookie to one sharp tooth in a snoozing Betty’s lower jaw when…swipe!…Betty grabs the cookie and gobbles it up. The detectives look on in astonishment. “Sleepwalking?” suggests Mike the bull. “Sleep eating,” corrects Josie. Just then Betty wakes up to see all the detectives staring at her, ready to solve the case.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“You yearn for sleep, yes?” asks Steve. Sharon, the duck reminds Betty that she last ate yesterday, yet she wanted no snack, and Quentin reveals, “you ate your yield of yummies yourself.” Betty’s surprised… astounded… asleep! But the Gumshoe Zoo has a bit of celebrating to do since they “zipped this zany, zigzagging zinger with zeal! The press celebrates them too with an article in the 1000% True News. But what’s this on Page 2? A valuable painting has been stolen! It seems there’s a new case for the Gumshoe Zoo to solve!

Notes about alliteration and some very hungry animals follow the text.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Travis Nichols’ witty alliterative alphabetic mystery will have little ones giggling at the zany language and big words that trip off the Gumshoe Zoo detectives’ tongues, while adults will laugh along and shake their head in appreciation of the clever construction of the story. Detective-story tropes, including the round-up of detectives caught in the middle of chores or play, a clueless member of the team, and the locked-room mystery, add to the fun. The panel illustrations set a quick pace for the investigation and clearly show the objects or ideas being alliteratively alluded to to boost younger readers’ understanding.

Betty’s Burgled Bakery will be a favorite of little linguists-in-the-making as well as for mystery lovers. It’s a book that will be asked for again and again. It makes a fun and unique addition to home bookshelves and a terrific English or writing lesson lead-in for classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452131832

Learn more about Travis Nichols, his books, and his art on his website

Mystery Month Activity

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Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Before this pan goes into the oven, can you find the eighteen baking-related words in this printable word search puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

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Betty’s Burgled Bakery can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review