September 30 – National Teach Spanish Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrating its first anniversary this year, National Teach Spanish Day was established by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) to promote the profession of teaching Spanish, raise awareness of the shortage of Spanish teachers for students from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and to emphasize the importance of Spanish as a world language. For more information, visit the AATSP website.

Today I’m featuring a collection of Spanish/English bilingual board books that teach little ones Spanish and English words for numbers and other concepts as well as nursery rhymes. With bright colors and charming characters, these books make language learning fun. These books would make excellent gifts for baby showers, new babies, and any young learner. The series would enhance any child’s home library and is highly recommended for school and public library collections. To learn more, visit the Canticos website.

Thanks to Encantos for sending me their latest bilingual board books for little learners for review consideration. All opinions about the books are my own.

Bilingual Firsts Series

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Feelings

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross

 

For little ones, learning about feelings and how to recognize various facial expressions aids their social-emotional development and helps them manage their emotions and have empathy for others – skills that will benefit them in school, with family, and as they engage with the world. In this chunky board book, kids discover eleven emotions, including happy, sad, excited, brave, surprised, confused, and proud.

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Image copyright Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross, 2021, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Each feeling is written in English and Spanish. On the facing page, adorable depictions of the feeling lifts to reveal a more exaggerated portrayal of the emotion along with a prompt for little ones to recreate the expression themselves. For example: “Can you show me a happy face?” / ¿Puedes poner una cara feliz?”

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635359 (Available for preorder)

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First 100 Words

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

In vivid, two-page spreads Susie Jaramillo and Abigail Gross introduce kids to one hundred common words from nature/naturaleza, transportation/transporte, school/escuela, sports/deportes, music/música, the beach/playa, / the ocean/océano, a party/fiesta, home/hogar, the kitchen/cocina, and the bedroom/dormitorio.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Abigail Gross’s fun-packed and detailed illustrations that clearly show each item and its name in English and Spanish will excite little ones to learn both languages. The first book in the Bilingual First Series, this board book is one you’ll want to carry along as you go shopping, to the park, on walks, and elsewhere to refer to and enhance your child’s language learning.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635298

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Letters A to Z

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

In beautiful two-page spreads, Susie Jaramillo and Abigail Gross teach kids one English word with its Spanish translation and one Spanish word with its English translation for each letter of the alphabet. Spanish letter combinations Ch and Ll as well as Ñ are also included.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Bold imagery allows children to clearly identify the meaning of each word, and the chicks, bunnies, elephants, and other familiar characters are, as always, enthusiastic and encouraging friends that will captivate children as they learn.

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635335

 

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Numbers 1 to 100

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

From 1 sun to 100 raindrops, little learners will love counting along with the cute chicks, frogs, elephants, and bunnies as they gather in groups and present kid-favorite items, such as bubbles, presents, butterflies, and candy that young children can easily point to as they count. After numbers 1 through 10, kids count by tens from 20 to 100. All numbers and the names of the items appear in English and Spanish.

Ages Baby – 4

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635328 (Available for preorder)

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Opposites

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross

 

Learning opposites with the sweet characters in this Cantícos series will have little ones giggling as they discover pairs like “Loud / Ruidoso” and “Quite / Silencioso,” “Tall / Alto” and “Short / Bajo,” “Inside / Adentro” and “Outside / Afuera,” “Above / Encima” and “Below / Debajo,” plus nine more.

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Image copyright Angie Monroy Camelo and Abigail Gross, 2021, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

Ages Baby – 4

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635519 (Available for preorder)

Nursery Rhymes

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All the Colors

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

Six colors (red/rojo; orange/naranja; yellow/amarillo; green/verde; blue/azul; purple/morado) are introduced with three jaunty verses that reveal that “It’s these colors that much like our love, fill our hearts and make everything oh so alive. / Y por eso los grandes amores, de muchos colores me gustan a mi.”

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2020, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

With English on the right side and Spanish on the left, little ones and adults can easily compare translations, allowing for enhanced learning. Each individual color is presented on a flap with the English word on the front and the Spanish word underneath by one of the Canticos characters that fans of the series will love sharing their educational journey with.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2020 | ISBN 978-1945635366

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Little Chickies / Los pollitos

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

This interactive lift-the-flap book introduces little ones to three adorable chicks who have just hatched – in fact, kids can just lift the flap to help the third chick pop from his egg with a cherry “Pio, pio, pio. These little chicks love to peep “…when they get so cold, and when they want a meal. / “…cuando tienen hambre, cuando tienen frío.”

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Image copyright Abigail Gross, 2021, text copyright Susie Jaramillo, 2021. Courtesy of Encantos.

When their mother hen hears their “Pio,” she runs to the corn field then “serves them each their food and warms them head to heel. / les da la comida y les presta abrigo.” Satisfied and happy, it’s time for the family to snuggle in their nest until the next day.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-1945635359 (Available for preorder)

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Little Elephants / Elefantitos

Written by Susie Jaramillo | Illustrated by Abigail Gross

 

In this sweet board book, based on the traditional Mexican counting song “Un elefante se balanceaba”, kids learn to count from one to five with a group of playful little elephants and one creative spider, whose web the elephants just can’t resist. What do they do? “One little elephant, looking oh so elegant, balanced on the web of a spider. Along came a friend, from around the bend and the elephant called to invite her.” / “Un elefante se balanceaba sobre la tela de una araña. Como veí que resistía fue a llamar a otro elefante.” These two elephants have fun dancing on the thin thread, but what happens when five elephants pile on? “Ooops!” / “¡uuupa!” Hey! “Let’s do it again.” / “Hagámoslo de nuevo.” Flaps lift to teach kids the words one through five in Spanish and English.

Ages Baby – 5

Encantos, 2021 | ISBN 978-0996995917 (Available for preorder)

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You can find Canticos Bilingual Firsts and Nursery Rhyme board books for preorder on

Encantos Website | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

September 27 – National Family Day

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About the Holiday

The purpose of today’s holiday is simple—to fully appreciate the family one has, whether it is small or large, whether members live close together or far apart. The founders of Family Day, which is celebrated on different dates around the world, wanted people to relax their busy schedules and spend time with those they love in a meaningful and fun way. This year we may be spending more time with family than usual, which has led to some thoughtful, creative, and fun ways to pass the time. To honor today’s holiday, let your family members know how much they mean to you. 

What is a Family?

Written by Annette Griffin | Illustrated by Nichola Cowdery

 

Early in life, little ones—loved by mom and dad, two moms, or two dads and perhaps siblings; grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins; and other extended family members—discover that all of these people are their family. But they may wonder: what does that word really mean? As kids play with their pets, visit zoos and aquariums, and read about animals, they may also wonder if animals have families. What is a Family? answers these questions with bouncy rhymes that introduce children to an alphabetic variety of animals and the scientific names of their groups. But first, it answers that most important question and reveals that “Families are groups / that take care of their own. / They all stick together / to help make a home.”

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Image copyright Nichola Cowdery, 2020, text copyright Annette Griffin, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

At A,B, and C kids learn that “Ants have a colony. / Bats have a cloud. / Chickens have peeps / where they can get loud.” The names of many family groups seem perfectly fitting for the animals’ personalities or traits. Take these at M,N, and O, for instance: “Mice have their mischiefs, / and narwhals, a blessing. / Oysters have beds— / not for sleeping, I’m guessing.”

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Image copyright Nichola Cowdery, 2020, text copyright Annette Griffin, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Little ones will love and take pride in learning about unusual animals, like quail, umbrellabirds, and xerus as well as the clever names for their family groups in Annette Griffin’s charming verses that provide a smattering of behavioral facts about the animals along the way. Griffin ends her story with this snug reassurance: “…families are special, / though not all the same. / It’s the caring and sharing / that gives them the name” that can lead adults and children to discuss the variety of families, cultures, and traditions that make up our world.

Nichola Cowdery populates this nicely sized, soft-covered board book with adorable birds, fish, reptiles, and forest, jungle, and plains animals set in their realistic habitats. Her vibrant colors and whimsical details will captivate young readers. Little ones will also be drawn to the images of the ways in which babies and adult animals interact. There’s plenty here to set little learners giggling too, which enhances the reading experience.

Sure to be a family favorite for story time and bedtime, What is a Family? would be an endearing and educational book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 1 – 5

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641702447

Discover more about Annette Griffin and her books on her website.

To learn more about Nichola Cowdery, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Family Day Activity

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Match Up the Animals! Game

 

Match up animal family members in this fun printable game that tests your powers of memory!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Animal Pairs Cards, print two pages to have double cards. To make the game more difficult print 3 or more pages to find 3 or more groups of matching animals
  2. Color the cards
  3. Cut out the cards
  4. Lay the cards face down on a table in random order
  5. Turn over cards to look for matching pairs
  6. When you find a matching pair leave the cards face up
  7. Continue playing until you find all the matching animal pairs or groups

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You can find What is a Family? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 14 – National Live Creative Day

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About the Holiday

National Live Creative Day was established to encourage people to embrace their innovative side. There are so many ways to be creative from the arts, to science and math, to what you make for dinner. Little ones seem to know this inherently as they go about exploring and interacting with all the new things they see, hear, and do every day. Introducing kids to all kinds of hobbies, subjects, and professions expands their definition of creativity and their outlook on the future. Reading today’s book with them is a great place to start! To celebrate today, take time to look at things in a different way. You may be surprised at how creative you really are!

Thanks to Quarto Publishing for sending me a copy of ABC What Can I Be? For review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

ABC What Can I Be?: You Can Be Anything You Want to Be, from A to Z

By Sugar Snap Studio

 

A whole world of possibilities is open to kids as they grow and learn. Introducing them to a wide range of careers is as easy as ABC in this bright, oversized board book that demonstrates the joy of working at something you love. Each profession is described with one compelling sentence that presents the substance of the occupation through rich vocabulary. Bold typography displays the letter of the alphabet along with its namesake career while charming and high-interest illustrations depict a person actively engaged in working and the equipment they use.

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Copyright Sugar Snap Studio, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster Jr, Quarto Publishing.

These vivid images give little learners many opportunities to ask questions, recognize similar objects in their own homes, at school, or when out with parents or caregivers, and make connections with professionals they meet when going to the doctor, the dentist, farmers markets, zoos, and museums.

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Copyright Sugar Snap Studio, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster Jr, Quarto Publishing.

A highlight of this book is the inclusion of lesser-known careers that will pique kids’ interest as well as the emphasis—told through the illustrations—that anyone of any gender can pursue the work that speaks to them and uses their talents. A peek inside finds Landscape Architect at L: “I design gardens, parks, and open spaces for people to enjoy.” If your little one loves the water, they may want to dive into O for Oceanographer. This scientist says, “I study life in the ocean and take samples back to my lab.”

What career begins with Q? Quantitative Analyst—who uses “mathematics to look for patterns and [studies] data.” Children who love collaborating with other kids may be interested in being a Youth Director, who says that they “care for children and tach them important life skills.”

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Copyright Sugar Snap Studio, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster Jr, Quarto Publishing.

An exciting and world-broadening way to learn the alphabet, ABC What Can I Be? will be a favorite on family bookshelves and would be an excellent addition to classroom and public library collections. The book also makes a welcome gift for baby showers, babies, and young children.

Ages 3 – 6

Walter Foster Jr, Quarto Publishing, 2020 | ISBN 978-1600588822

To learn more about Sugar Snap Studio, visit their website.

National Live Creative Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-magnetic-can-craft (2)Creativity is Magnetic! Fun Can-tainer

 

A can with a lid can make a creative kit if you fill it with magnetic pieces that can be used to make scenes, faces, or even poems. Make the magnets yourself and you can create a kit that is uniquely yours! Make a kit to put in the car too!

Supplies

  1. Can with a lid, available at craft stores or with various types of tea
  2. Small craft magnets and/or magnetic strips
  3. A variety of small items such as:
  • Foam or felt shapes
  • Scrap booking stickers 
  • Googly eyes in various sizes
  • Felt or heavy paper
  • Small charms
  • Small toys

Directions

To Make Scenes

  1. Attach magnets to shapes, stickers, or small items
  2. Arrange them into a scene or design on the side of the can

To Make Faces

  1. Attach magnets to googly eyes
  2. Make noses and mouths out of the felt or heavy paper
  3. Attach magnets to facial features

To Make Poems 

  1. Use Magnetic Sheets, leaving the white paper on
  2. Write words on the white paper
  3. Cut out words
  4. Arrange them into a poem on the side of the can

Store your magnetic pieces inside the can

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You can find ABC What Can I Be? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 9 – It’s National Honey Month

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About the Holiday

Established by the National Honey Board in conjunction with the US Department of Agriculture in 1989, National Honey Month celebrates beekeepers, bees, and of course honey. September was chosen for this honor because here in the US, it’s the time when bees begin to secure their hive and prepare for winter and well as the month when the majority of honey is harvested. To celebrate this month, explore a variety of honey flavors, try a few new recipes that incorporate honey, and learn all the buzz about bees, honey, and beekeeping with today’s book!

I’d like to thank Sleeping Bear Press for sharing H is for Honey Bee: A Beekeeping Alphabet with me for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

H is for Honey Bee: A Beekeeping Alphabet

Written by Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

If your garden or yard is anything like mine, the bees are humming around late-summer blooms and tracing their circuitous route to nearby or far-flung hives. The mystery and marvel of how honey bees convert powdery pollen into sweet honey never fails to awe and delight. In H is for Honey Bee, readers of all ages discover fascinating facts and stories about Bees from Apis mellifera (“Apis is the clue that we’re talking about a bee. / And mellifera means it’s all about honey”) to Z “for Zen and BUZZZZ.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2020, text copyright Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In between children learn all about a bee hive, its resident bees (from Drones to Guards to the Queen), how bees communicate, and at E how organized beekeeping dates back to 2400 BC and how important it was to Egyptian culture. “Found on hieroglyphs in the sun temple of Pharaoh Ne-user-re near Cairo, Egypt, an Egyptian peasant is depicted smoking stacked hives while other workers are storing and sealing honey in jars.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2020, text copyright Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

At L kids learn about Lorenzo Langstroth, “the father of humane, practical beekeeping.” After discovering that natural hives had small passages that allowed bees to move freely though them, he invented a hive with removable frames that didn’t upset the other bees or damage the combs. Langstroth’s hive paved the way for other innovations, such as the Observation Hive at O, that gives people a clear view of bees at work. “You can watch the queen lay eggs, workers fan moisture from the nectar, and observe the bees dancing on the comb” and other marvels of a bee’s day.

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2020, text copyright Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Humans aren’t the only innovative ones, and readers will be fascinated to learn about Propolis at P, which bees make from their own saliva and other natural ingredients to protect their hive. V is for Venom—the bee’s defense that is more fun to learn about than experience. If you’re interested in where Beeswax comes from, just flip to W, and if you want to know how to tell if a hive is happy, Z is where you’ll find it.

Back matter includes resources on how you can create a safe and productive atmosphere for bees in your own yard, tips for becoming a beekeeper, and fun facts about busy bees.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-h-is-for-honey-bee-Z

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2020, text copyright Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Through charming and informative four-line rhymes and a column of detailed facts for each letter of the alphabet, Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen presents a full and exhilarating look at bees, honey, and the job of beekeeping. She describes the behavior of bees—from how they communicate to how they survive winter temperatures to how the queen rules the hive and more—as well as the dangers bees face, from inside the hive and out, in vivid language that will captivate kids. Discussions on the healthy properties of honey as well as the joys of amateur beekeeping are here as well.

Accompanying the text are Eileen Ryan Ewen’s vibrant illustrations that give readers an up-close view of honey bees developing from egg to adult, gathering nectar, and working in their hive. Kids also meet Lorenzo Langstroth, see beekeepers working at their hives in yards and on rooftops, and travel down the Nile River with ancient beekeepers who moved their hives to continually provide them with the nectar and pollen they needed. Each page invites lingering to see and discuss all the details.

A well-rounded and comprehensive resource for those interested in bees and insects, gardeners of any age, and kids who love nature as well as for elementary and middle-grade science classes, H is for Honey Bee: A Beekeeping Alphabet is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 7 – 10 and up

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110700

Discover more about Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen and her books on her website.

To learn more about Eileen Ryan Ewen, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Honey Month Activity

CPB---Busy-Buzzy-Bee-Maze

Busy Buzzy Bee Maze

 

Can you help the little bee find her way to the flower and her friend in this printable maze?

Busy Buzzy Bee Maze PuzzleBusy Buzzy Bee Maze Solution!

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You can find H is for Honey Bee: A Beekeeping Alphabet at these bookseller

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

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