November 15 – It’s Geography Awareness Week

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was instituted in 1994 by National Geographic to get people excited about geography and its importance to education and everyday life. As defined by National Geographic, geography is “the study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.” This discipline includes how humans interact with the environment and the impact of location on people. These important questions affect a wide range of issues. More than 100,000 people across the country participate in Geography Awareness Week through special events, focused lessons and activities in classrooms, and attention by government and business policy-makers. To learn more about the week and discover resources for further education, visit the National Geographic website.

Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island

By Jennifer Thermes

 

Jennifer Thermes’ phenomenal work of history and geography begins on the front and back endpapers, where a detailed and tagged map of Manhattan, with its gridded streets and unique landmarks awaits investigation. But how did it become this bustling world leader? Thermes reveals that even from its formation millions of years ago as a sheltered bit of land, fed by both fresh and salt water, the island “bubbled with life.” Continuing on from this lyrical beginning, Thermes’ love for New York shines on every exquisite page.

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2019. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Alternating between sweeping vistas of the island, immersive images of major events, and meticulous maps—complete with tiny homes and buildings, people at work and play, and hand-lettered street names—that show the growth of the city, Thermes presents a feast for the eyes. Her full-bleed, oversized illustrations, rendered in a gorgeous color palette, create in themselves a comprehensive overview of history seen through changing clothing, transportation, and home styles to name just a few telling elements. Studying the maps, a reader can’t be faulted for feeling as if they might come to life at any moment.

She introduces readers to the Lenape, who for thousands of years called the island home. They named it “Mannahatta, which means ‘island of many hills.’” As the seasons changed, the people moved from one part of the island to another, establishing villages “with names like Sapokanikan and Shroakapok and fishing, farming, and foraging for “what they needed and nothing more.”

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2019. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Thermes then follows explorer Henry Hudson, whose reports back home about the island’s riches would change the island forever. She marks historical periods from 1625 to today with elegant banners that give the dates and changing names for this coveted landmass. Thermes’ storytelling eloquently reveals the complexity of the island’s development from canals dug and filled in, expansion of its width with landfill that included “rocks and earth, broken crockery, oyster shells, wood from old shipwrecks, rotting garbage, and even dead animals” to the adoption of the grid system.

The impact of slavery, the divides between rich and poor, the influence of business and industry, and the continual effects of modernization are woven throughout Thermes’ pages, sometimes coalescing as in the story of Collect Pond, once “the island’s best source of fresh water,” which became, in turn, the site of a cemetery for free Africans, polluted by “breweries, tanneries, and slaughterhouses,” a neighborhood for the wealthy, an area plagued by gangs and violence, and finally, in 2006, a national monument commemorating the old African Burial Ground. Each clearly articulated description gives readers a robust and eye-opening history of this city that is in many ways a microcosm of America.

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2019. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

With the Revolutionary War behind them and a new nation in front, people thronged to what was now New York, New York, U.S.A. With much rebuilding needed, “Shipbuilders, sailmakers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and all kinds of artisans crowded the city again…. The city on the island was branching out in all directions. It needed a plan.” The plan came in the form of a grid system. The execution of the plan saw the island’s hills leveled, new roads built and old roads straightened, houses in the way torn down, and people relocated. When the dust settled, “the city commissioners had thought it would take centuries to fill the grid with buildings. It only took sixty years.”

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2019. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The Great Fire of 1835, the building of Central Park, the history of immigration, the gilded age of the late 1800s, and the Great Blizzard of 1888, which spurred the building of the subway, are a few more of the events readers will learn about. As an island, Manhattan’s story is also written its bridges, and everyone knows the names of the famous skyscrapers that make the city’s skyline unique. Stirring images of these landmarks are here too.

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2019. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

The city continues to be changed by environmental events, such as Hurricane Sandy of 2012, and buoyed by improvements like the cleaning of the Bronx River that has prompted beavers to return “for the first time in more than two hundred years.” As Thermes says in conclusion: “Reminders are everywhere that through centuries of constant change humans and nature will always exist together. And beneath the city’s concrete crust, the island endures.”

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2019. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

A stunning achievement, Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island is a must addition to home, school, and classroom collections. This is a book that readers will want to dip into again and again to discover all it has to offer. Opportunities for cross-curricular lessons abound from history to geography, language arts to math, art and architecture to environmental science, and beyond. Manhattan makes a wonderful gift for children and teachers and, of course, for any New York lover of any age.

Ages 8 – 12 and up

Harry N. Abrams, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419736551

To learn more about Jennifer Thermes, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Geography Day Activity

CPB - Map Day II

Map Jigsaw Puzzle

 

Sometimes reading a map is like putting together a puzzle—so why not make a puzzle out of a map? It can be fun to use a map of your town or state or to use a map of a state or country you’d like to visit!

Supplies

  • Small to medium size map (maps are often offered free at tourist stops, town halls, or other tourist information offices or racks)
  • Poster board
  • Glue
  • Scissors

CPB - Map Day

Directions

  1. Use the entire map or cut a desired-sized section from a map
  2. Glue the map to the poster board, let dry
  3. Cut the map from the poster board
  4. Cut the map into puzzle sections, these can be straight-sided sections or ones with interconnecting parts.

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You can find Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 1 – World Architecture Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 1986 by the International Union of Architects, World Architecture Day is celebrated on the first Monday in October to coincide with the United Nations-sponsored World Habitat Day. Each year a different theme highlights the important aspects of architecture in our lives. This year’s theme is “Architecture…for a Better World” and emphasizes the issues, challenges, and rewards of housing the world’s citizens. To celebrate today take a walk around your town or city with your kids and study the buildings and how they fit into history or new construction in your area. You can also research a famous building and the architect who designed it!

Brick, Who Found Herself in Architecture

Written by Joshua David Stein | Illustrated by Julia Rothman

 

When Brick was a baby, she marveled at all the tall buildings and “wondered how anything could grow so big.” Her mother told her that “‘great things begin with small bricks.’” And Brick saw that it was true. When she looked closely, she saw that all the buildings she admired were made of bricks just like her. Brick wondered if there were buildings like this in all towns and even in other countries.

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Image copyright Julia Rothman, 2018, text copyright Joshua David Stein, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Pretty soon, Brick was old enough to satisfy her curiosity on her own and “find her place in the world.” Brick bravely set sail and landed at Malbork Castle, which had high walls with slits for shooting arrows through. Next, she visited The Ark, which was in the desert. Brick saw that both of these castles had suffered from years of fighting. “Brick did not want to fight. So she moved on.”

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Image copyright Julia Rothman, 2018, text copyright Joshua David Stein, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

She saw churches, mosques, synagogues, and a Buddhist temple. She thought they were beautiful, “but they did not call out to her. And so she kept going.” She walked on walls and looked down both sides, but she did not want to divide places and people, so she kept going. She visited apartment houses, houses in the suburbs, and even a country house with a “chimney billowing smoke.” But Brick knew that “homes eventually empty and hearths grow cold.” This was not the future she wanted. Where did she belong? Brick wondered.

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Image copyright Julia Rothman, 2018, text copyright Joshua David Stein, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Brick considered all the buildings she had seen, and she remembered the words her mother had told her long ago about great things. She sat at the end of her path and pondered into the night. When the sun rose, Brick saw the answer right in front of her. She settled herself in and “became part of a wide and lovely path” that would guide other bricks to find where they belonged too.

An Afterword presents a description, complete with photograph, of the various buildings Brick encounters in her travels.

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Image copyright Julia Rothman, 2018, text copyright Joshua David Stein, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Full of lovely metaphors and deeply considered thoughts on the way architecture models the human heart as well as how people design their buildings and structures for purposes both positive and negative, Joshua David Stein’s story is a unique look at growing up. The brick makes a particularly compelling character, for in any building each brick holds a crucial place in the design while also joining with others to create a durable whole—just as it is for any individual in a strong, vibrant community.

As the little brick is exposed to the various roles she could dedicate her life to, she thinks not only of the immediate reward of “having a job” but of what her philosophies are and what she wants her future to be. In a perhaps surprising—but welcome—choice, Brick decides that instead of being part of a grand edifice, becoming a step along the path and guiding others is her calling. This recognition of teachers, parents, caregivers, and other such role models is inspired and uplifting.

Julia Rothman’s light touch, variety of reds, and whimsical black-and-white line drawings of foliage, ancillary elements, and toy-strewn backyards beautifully showcase a world of sturdy brick buildings while giving readers a sense of the soaring awe with which Brick views her city and the landmarks she visits. Rothman’s use of perspective juxtaposes tiny Brick against towering structures mirroring a feeling that young readers may know well. The path Brick travels is ever-present, running from edge to edge of the pages. The final two-page spread of Brick happily fitted into a path that meanders through a lushly landscaped park, which is being crossed by a young brick on his way to the city in the distance will delight readers.

Brick, Who Found Herself in Architecture is an original and lyrical look at individuality, growing up, and finding one’s place in the world. The book would be a strong addition to school, classroom, and public libraries and an encouraging and reassuring choice for home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 8

Phaidon Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714876313

To learn more about Julia Rothman, her books and her art, visit her website.

World Architecture Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brick-craft

Build Your Identity 

 

Sometimes it’s good for kids to remind themselves of all the things that they like, stops along their path, and even words that describe them. With this craft, kids can make a “brick” that stands strong with all of their unique qualities. While a wooden block can be used to make a brick, if you have a real brick that can be used too!

Supplies

  • Wooden rectangular block, available at craft stores
  • Brick red craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. Paint the block with the craft paint, let dry
  2. Write words about yourself, things you like to do, inspirational places you’ve been, even places and things you’d like to do in the future.
  3. Display your brick on a shelf, hang on a wall, or use it as a book end

Classroom Idea

As a story extension for the classroom, cut one brick-sized rectangle from red construction paper, heavy-stock paper, or poster board for each student. Have them write about themselves, about what they think they would like to do in the future, or about some other topic pertinent to your class. Let students display their bricks by working together to “build” their own path in the classroom.

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You can find Brick, Who Found Herself in Architecture at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

March 10 – It’s National Women’s History Month

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 About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the accomplishments of women in the past who have broken barriers and forged paths for today’s women and who still inspire the leaders of tomorrow. To honor women this month, learn more about the influential woman in your own field or in areas you enjoy as hobbies and teach your children about the women who made incredible contributions to the world long ago and those who are changing the way we live today.

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines

Written by Jeanne Walker Harvey | Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

 

As a child, Maya Lin loved playing and interacting with nature near her home. She and her brother liked to run over what Maya had named “the Lizard’s Back”—a hill behind her house—and into the woods. Sometimes Maya went into the woods alone and “sat as still as a statue, hoping to tame rabbits, raccoons, chipmunks, and squirrels.” She liked to play chess with her brother and build towns from scraps of paper, boxes, books, and other things she found around the house.

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Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Maya’s “parents had fled China at a time when people were told what to be and how to think.” They did not want the same for their children and always encouraged Maya to be and think what she wanted. Maya grew up surrounded by art. Her father worked with clay, and her mother was a poet. Maya also liked to make things with her hands. The beautiful library where she went to college inspired Maya to become an architect.

To learn about different buildings, Maya traveled all over the world. When she was only a senior in college, “Maya entered a contest to design a memorial to honor soldiers who died during the Vietnam War.” The contest stated two rules: the memorial had to fit in with a park-like setting, and it had to include the 58,000 names of the soldiers who had died in the war. These rules resonated with Maya. She “believed that a name brings back all the memories of a person, more than a photo of a moment in time.”

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Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Maya visited the site where the memorial would be built. As she looked at the gently rolling hill, she envisioned a simple cut in the earth that would support a polished wall covered in names. Not only would the wall reflect those who died, but also those who came to visit and the surrounding nature. At school, Maya worked with mashed potatoes and then with clay to help her create the perfect monument. When she had finished her drawings and plans, she wrote an essay to accompany them. She wrote that her monument would be “a place to be experienced by walking down, then up past names that seemed to go on forever.”

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Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

More than 1,400 artists and architects—many of them famous—entered the contest. The designs were hung in an airplane hangar anonymously for judging. Finally, the day came for the announcement of the winner. When the judges called out Maya Lin’s name and she came forward, they were surprised to find that she was so young. Maya was excited to have won, but then some people began to object to her design. Some said her “design looked like a bat, a boomerang, a black gash of shame.”

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Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Maya was hurt by these comments, but she defended her design and, finally, it was approved. Maya worked with the architects and engineers who excavated the land and built the wall. As each granite panel was polished, engraved with the soldiers’ names, and set in place, Maya looked on. The memorial opened on Veterans Day in 1982. Thousands of people came to see it and to find the names of loved ones they had lost. As Maya approached the wall, “she searched for the name of the father of a friend. When she touched the name, she cried, just as she knew others would.” Every day since then visitors come to the wall to remember.

Maya Lin has gone on to design many more works of art and architecture that can be seen inside and outside. Each piece has a name and a particular vision. Maya wants people to interact with her art—to touch it; read, walk, or sit near it; or think about it. After each piece is finished, Maya thinks about her next work and how she can inspire the people who will see it.

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Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

An Author’s Note about Maya Lin and the Vietnam War Memorial follows the text.

Jeanne Walker Harvey has written an inspiring biography of Maya Lin that reveals not only her creativity but the importance of creative freedom for children. Lin’s confidence that led her to enter the contest and then defend her winning design will encourage readers to pursue their dreams. Harvey’s lyrical storytelling reflects Maya Lin’s quiet, introspective nature, the influences that nurtured her creative spirit, and her dedication to inviting others to be part of her art.

Dow Phumiruk’s graceful, soft-hued illustrations allow children to follow Maya Lin as she grows from a girl discovering nature, constructing cardboard cities, and learning the arts from her parents to a young woman who draws inspiration from the world’s buildings and relies on her own sensitivity to guide her. Back-to-back pages of the landscape of Vietnam and the site of the memorial connect the two places for children’s better understanding. Phumiruk’s depictions of the Vietnam War Memorial also give children an excellent view of this moving monument. Her images of Lin’s other architectural work will entice young readers to learn more about her and to explore where each of these pieces can be found.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt & Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1250112491

Discover more about Jeanne Walker Harvey and her books on her website!

Learn more about Dow Phumiruk, her art, and her books on her website!

National Women’s History Month Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maya-lin-coloring-page

Maya Lin Coloring Page

Maya Lin’s accomplishments are inspirational for all children! Here’s a printable coloring page that you can personalize and hang in your room or locker to remind you that you can reach your goals too!

Maya Lin Coloring Page

Picture Book Review

February 23 – National Tile Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established just last year and celebrates that architectural accent that has given exteriors and interiors pizazz and individuality since ancient times. Made in nearly every color, pattern, and shape imaginable, tiles were once all handmade and available only to the wealthy few. Innovations during the Industrial Revolution allowed tile to be mass produced and, thus, affordable to many. Tile has become a favorite decoration in homes across the world—as any HGTV viewer knows!

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

By Jeanette Winter

 

Growing up in Iraq, Zaha Hadid sees the way rivers brake up the marshland, watches when the wind sculpts sand dunes, and visits the ruins of ancient cities. At home in Baghdad, young Zaha studies the patterns of her Persian carpet, noticing “how the shapes and colors flow into each other, like the dunes and rivers and marshes” and dreaming of designing her own cities.

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Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

In her room, she arranges and rearranges the furniture, creates her own clothes, and comes up with ideas. When Zaha grows up, she moves to London to study to be an architect. After graduation, she opens an office in an old school building—Studio 9. Zaha is joined by some friends and they work tirelessly on their architectural drawings.

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Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

“Zaha’s designs don’t look like other designs. Her buildings swoosh and zoom and flow and fly. ‘The world is not a rectangle’” she says. But Zaha cannot find anyone to build her designs; everyone says they are impossible. Finally, one of Zaha’s designs is chosen from among all the others in a competition. When it is presented to the city’s committee, however, they reject it. Another competition is held, and Zaha’s design wins again. The city rejects it again. Zaha is as strong as her name Hadid, which means iron in Arabic, and she continues to design plan after plan.

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Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Then one by one her plans are accepted. She “remembers the grasses in the marshes swaying” and designs tall towers “dancing like grass.” In the desert, she creates a building that allows the wind to blow over and around and through it. The sports stadium she imagines has the beauty of a cocoon. Remembering the stones in a stream, Zaha “builds an opera house like the pebbles in the water. Inside the opera house, a singer is the pearl in the oyster shell.”

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Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

The swirling stars in far-away galaxies inspire a complex of connected buildings, and the undulating waves become the model for a bridge that seems to move with the water. From looking at the Alps, Zaha fashions a museum built “inside a mountain peak with windows to see the sky and the valleys” and a ski jump that “reaches to the sky like the mountain.” From the “jungle and ancient wood temples,” Zaha draws inspiration for “a wooden building to remember a faraway war.”

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Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

With every building, Zaha gets busier and busier more than four hundred architects are working in that old school building, “designing, planning, engineering, and making models of Zaha’s visions.” But Zaha’s ideas don’t stop at buildings. She believes “you should do what you like,” so she designs doll houses, shoes, chairs, sculpture, and benches. No matter what she designs, Zaha’s early memories return. She thinks of “the beauty of the landscape—where sand, water, reeds, birds, buildings, and people all somehow flow together” and never loses her belief in the impossible.

Even though the light in Zaha’s office is now dark, “her architects keep their lights on—designing, planning, engineering, and making models of her visions, keeping her flame blazing bright.”

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Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Following the text, readers can learn the name and location of each building, discover more information about Zaha Hadid’s life and awards, and read more of her own words about her work.

Jeanette Winter shines a light on an architect who will inspire children not only with her work but with her original ideas, self-confidence, and refusal to compromise on her beliefs. Winter combines straightforward passages of Zaha’s childhood and early professional struggles with lyrical phrasing that describes her influences in nature and her soaring buildings. Sprinkled throughout are Zaha’s own words that define her ideas and ideals.

In her dreamlike illustrations, Winter clearly depicts Zaha Hadid’s inspirations and the way in which she interpreted each natural motion, shape, or phenomenon in steel, glass, concrete, or wood. Winter’s pages swirl, shimmer, flow, and soar, and Zaha is always there, seeing, thinking, envisioning, and drawing.

An excellent biography of a strong and creative woman who has designed some of the world’s most beautiful and original buildings, The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid would be a superb addition to classroom discussions and home story times.

Ages 5 – 10

Beach Lane Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481446693

National Tile Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-books-review-heart-mosaic-coloring-page

I (Heart) Tiles! Coloring Page

 

With colorful tiles you can make beautiful pictures. Put your imagination to work and color this I (Heart) Tiles! Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

January 14 – Organize Your Home Day

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About the Holiday

Sometimes it seems that clutter multiplies while you’re not looking. The beginning of the year offers an opportunity to clean out those closets, pantries, and basements that can be breeding grounds for mess. Getting the house back in shape can be fun if you get the whole family involved. Kids will appreciate being asked for their suggestions on organizing their rooms and may have some pretty creative ideas—just like the boy in today’s book! 

If I Built a House

By Chris Van Dusen

 

While Jack’s mother digs in the garden and their dog snoozes in the sun, Jack is reconsidering his house. It’s just like the others in the neighborhood, he says—“boxy and boring and basically bland. / It’s nothing at all like the house I have planned.” Sure, his house will have function and flow, but the rooms inside are where his real genius will show. Then with the flair of an HGTV host, Jack invites his mom in to see what he means.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-i-built-a-house-dreaming

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

First up is the kitchen that has a mind—and arms—of its own. In this “Kitchen-O-Mat,” Jack tells his mom, “You don’t have to cook and you don’t have to clean. / It’s done by a space-age robotic machine. / It makes all the meals, and the food is deeelish. / Then it washes and puts away every last dish.” The living room is every kid’s dream of an indoor playground, with furniture that spins, a ball pit, and two trampolines.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The bathroom is built assembly-line style with no shower or tub—just an ingenious “Scrub-a-Dub-Dub. / Just step on the belt and it washes you clean— / Even the places that you’ve never seen!” Jack’s bedroom’s a penthouse of glass in the round, with a 200-feet long twisty slide that deposits you into the Art Room through a round door in the wall. The wall is great for drawing on too, but “…don’t worry, it’s cool. / Hung way up high, on a big giant spool, / Is a huge roll of paper that hangs to the floor. / Just draw till you’re done, / Then pull down some more.”

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

If you’ve ever wanted to explore outer space, Jack’s Flying Room is the place for you. With just a flip of the switch on the wall, you’re floating here and there, totally free. In Jack’s house you’d go from flying to racing in the Racetrack Room, which “features a racetrack that loops all around / with superfast go-karts that don’t make a sound.”

Are you more of a swimmer? Well, Jack’s thought of that too with a Fish Tank Room where you can snorkel and dive with turtles, stingrays, an octopus, and all sizes of fish. Tired of houses that just sit in one place? Then you’ll love the room that Jack’s left for last. “Literally speaking, this room is a BLAST! / “So welcome. Sit down, I’ll seal up the hatches. / This Plexiglass Playroom completely detaches!” Powered by jets, you can soar all around the neighborhood. For Jack, “this room is as good as it gets!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-i-built-a-house-racetrack-room

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

With all of these features and incredible rooms, Jack tells his mom, “My house will be nifty. My house will be neat. / My house will stand out as the best on the street.” Wistfully dreaming of his modern design, Jack says, “If I built a house, that’s just what I’d do.”

Chris Van Dusen knows how to tap into the mind of a child with all of its fantastic imaginings and anything-is-possible daring. Young readers will love seeing what Jack dreams up in his kid-perfect house that combines the best of features of their favorite playgrounds and attractions. Dusen’s sprightly verses pair uncommon words amid complex sentences, and the jaunty rhythm is a joy to read aloud.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2012, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Dusen’s retro illustrations are bold and vibrant with plenty of cool and ingenious details in each room to fascinate kids. The snaking arms that busily cook in the kitchen, merry-go-round coffee table, replaceable wallpaper, and loop-de-loop racetrack offer the kinds of playful pandemonium that kids crave. If only all smart houses looked this cool.

Funny and imaginative, If I Built a House would be a lighthearted choice to inspire creativity at home or in the classroom.

Ages 3 – 7

Dial Books, 2012 | ISBN 978-0803737518

To learn more about Chris Van Dusen, his books, and his illustration work, visit his website.

Organize Your Home Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-jar-craft

Shark Organizer Jar

 

Does your room need a little organizing? This fun Shark Organizer Jar will take a bite out the messiness and make your room look awesome too!

Supplies

  • Wide-mouth plastic jar, like a peanut-butter jar
  • Gray craft paint
  • White craft paint
  • Black craft paint
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Find a point in the middle of the jar on opposite sides of the jar
  2. Mid-way between these points on the other sides of the jar, find a point about 1 1/2 inches above the first points
  3. From the first point draw an angled line up to the higher point and down again to the lower point to make the shark’s upper jaw
  4. Repeat Direction Number 3 to make the shark’s lower jaw
  5. With the gray paint fill in the jar below these lines to make the shark’s head
  6. Along the jawline, paint jagged teeth with the white paint
  7. Add black dots for eyes on either side of the shark’s head
  8. Let dry

Picture Book Review

November 26 – It’s Historic Bridge Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the bridges across the world who have stood the test of time as they connect roads, highways, and even walking paths over expanses of water or other gaps to convey travelers from one side to the other. Many old bridges are in danger of destruction through neglect or rebuilding. The founders of this month’s holiday ask that these structures be preserved for their beauty and history. There is another kind of bridge that also needs careful tending—as seen in today’s book! 

A Book of Bridges: Here to There and Me to You

Written by Cheryl Keely | Illustrated by Celia Krampien

 

“Bridges do more than connect one place to another. They bring the whole world together.” There are so many types of bridges—each just right for their place or function. Some of the most charming bridges are wooden-covered, like Canada’s Hartland-to-Somerville span in New Brunswick, which is the longest covered bridge in the world at 1282 feet (as long as 32 school buses end to end). Some are colorful like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, which is distinctively orange, a beautiful beacon against the blue sky and sea.

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Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In London the bridge isn’t really falling down even though that makes for a fun game! The London Bridge, which crosses the River Thames, was the first stone multi-arch bridge built in Britain.” Over the years the bridge has been renovated many times, and it’s now made of concrete and steel. Drawbridges might be the coolest kind of bridge! It’s fun to watch them split in the middle and rise up, up, up before coming back down after a ship passes. These bridges “date to medieval times when knights in armor—and dragons?!—fought for their castles.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-here-to-there-and-me-to-you-golden-gate-bridge

Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Sometimes bridges don’t have to be fancy to work. Some “bridges can be as simple as a few stones placed across a shallow stream” that give crossers a place to step all along the way. This is known as a clapper bridge. People aren’t the only ones who use bridges either. Places that are home to roaming wildlife—like Banff National Park in Canada—build bridges so animals “such as bears, wolves, moose, and lynx” can cross roads and highways safely.

Trains can also “use bridges to clickity-clack along, carrying people to people. Family together again.” But what if you want to travel from country to country? There are even bridges for that, and they make “a big world seem smaller.” While these types of bridges are strong and sturdy, there are other spans made only of rope and boards that are “rickety, ratchety, swinging and swaying their way to beautiful hid away places.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-here-to-there-and-me-to-you-covered-bridge

Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

People can become bridges too! Just try bending backward to touch the ground. Or if you don’t like feeling upside down, there is a simple way that “isn’t so grand. It connects me to you and you to me…through the simple holding of hands.”

Cheryl Keely’s enchanting tour of some of the world’s most beautiful and unusual bridges is sure to engage readers who love architecture, travel, and transportation—or who just have the wanderlust. Keely’s story, punctuated with facts and trivia about different types of bridges, is a lyrical frame for her theme of interconnectedness and friendship, making this a book that resonates on many levels and is a treat to dip into again and again.

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Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Celia Krampien’s charming artwork takes readers to the towns and cities, the shores and cliffs that host the world’s bridges. Her realistic depictions show the grandeur of the majestic spans millions of people use every day as well as the rustic simplicity of rope and clapper bridges. Kids will love picking out details of the scenery surrounding each structure as well as recognizing familiar settings they have learned about or, perhaps, traveled to.

A Book of Bridges: Here to There and Me to You is a fresh, uplifting story that will appeal to fiction as well as nonfiction lovers. In addition to being a great addition to any story time, the book has many cross-curricular applications for classrooms and libraries, and would be a welcome find on any bookshelf.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369966

To learn more about Cheryl Keely and her work as well as to find a fun bridge game, visit her website!

Find a portfolio of illustration by Celia Krampien on her website!

Historic Bridge Awareness Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spaghetti-box-bridge-craft

Build a Remarkable Recycled Bridge

 

You don’t need fancy blocks and construction materials to build a bridge! Little ones will be fascinated to put together a bridge made out of items you already have at home or that may even be slated for the recycle bin. Spaghetti boxes make great roadways, and cut-up egg cartons can be used as supports.

Want to build a whole town? Cereal boxes and pasta boxes make skyscrapers, apartment buildings, fire stations, and more. Need a farm silo? Grab a peanut butter jar or aluminum can. You can use them as is or—if your kids are sticklers for a little more detail—add a little paint! So look around, use your imagination, and get creative!

Picture Book Review

November 4 – It’s Historic Bridge Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Bridges can do so much more than just take vehicles and people over waterways or highways. Many are beautiful structures that enhance the skyline or environment in which they’re found. Covered bridges, stone bridges, and soaring steel and cable bridges all inspire awe in their own way. Unfortunately, many older bridges are slated for destruction or replacement. To honor this month’s holiday, visit a historic bridge in your area or research famous bridges of the past and present.

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

Written by Dave Eggers | Illustrated by Tucker Nichols

 

“In the beginning there was a bridge.” Well, to back up a bit there was a bay that led to the Pacific Ocean. The opening between the two shores that enclosed the bay was called the Golden Gate. “On one side of the Golden Gate was the Presidio, a military base at the top of the city of San Francisco. On the other side there were only hills, green and yellow, rising high above the sea.” Beyond these hills towns dotted the coastline.

People traveled between these shores by boat or by driving way out of their way. Many times people had thought about building a bridge across the bay, but they were afraid it would ruin the beauty of the land. At last it was decided that a bridge should be built. The year was 1928 and Joseph Strauss, an expert on bridges, was hired to design it. What he came up with looked more like the skeleton of a roller coaster, and while it would be strong, it would also be ugly.

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Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

People agreed that for such a beautiful spot, a beautiful bridge was needed. Joseph Strauss then asked for help in developing a plan for the bridge. Leon Moisseiff, known for designing the Manhattan Bridge in New York, came on board. Leon’s idea was for “a suspension bridge, one with swooping lines and tall towers.” The drawings were light and airy and…beautiful. People liked it very much.

“But still the bridge appeared a bit stern in style. So Joseph and Leon asked another person, named Irving Morrow, to help out.” Irving and his wife Gertrude had a different idea about what the bridge could be. With vertical fluting, “art deco flourishes,” pedestrian walkways, and curved lamps lighting the way, “the bridge could be both a bridge and something like art.”

Steelworkers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey built the pieces of the bridge. They were shipped to California by train and by boat. Finally, it was time to construct the bridge. Men had to dive deep into the icy waters of the Pacific Ocean and climb high into the sky while constructing it. It was estimated that it would take 4 years and thousands of workers to finish it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-bridge-will-not-be-gray-irving-morrow

Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

First the tall towers were constructed. The day they were finished was one of “jubilation” and awe as“sometimes the things humans make baffle even the humans who make them. One aspect of the bridge that had not been decided was the color, and many people had opinions on that. “The Navy thought it should be yellow and black so that ships and planes could easily see it.”

“The Army wanted it to look like a candy cane for the same reason the Navy wanted it to look like a tiger with jaundice: so that it would be easily seen by planes and ships.” Most people, though, thought the bridge should be painted black, white, or gray like most other monuments, towers, and buildings. Right now, the bridge was orange—coated with a special anti-rust paint. As Irving Morrow watched the bridge go up, he thought this orange was a beautiful color.

He suggested that the bridge be allowed to stay this color. Others thought he was “nuts.” Never had there been an orange bridge before, “and for a good portion of the human race, because something has not already been, that is a good reason to fear it coming to be.” But the people of San Francisco began to see things Irving’s way. Still, gray seemed to be the safe choice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-bridge-will-not-be-gray-people-talking

Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

Irving, who was usually a shy and quiet sort, began to get vocal about his color preference as the completion date of the bridge came closer. Other’s began to echo his thoughts and arguments. “This bridge will not be gray!” they said. At last “the powers that be” agreed with Irving. The bridge remained orange: International Orange, in fact.

But because the wind, rain, and sun are harsh on the orange bridge, it needs to be repainted every year. Every day some part of it is being painted by dedicated workers. Is that crazy? Maybe, “But people love to paint it, and people love to look at it. The Golden Gate Bridge, which is orange, is the best-known and best-loved bridge in the world” because it is “bold and courageous and unusual and even strange.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-bridge-will-not-be-gray-golden-gate-bridge

Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

San Francisco resident Dave Eggers has written a loving tribute not only about the very distinctive Golden Gate Bridge but to the equally distinctive, quirky, and even courageous Irving Morrow, other architects, and people of the Bay area who saw and championed art where others may only have seen function. Passages of straightforward narration are joined by rivets of whimsically inserted dialogue, soaring description, and moving insight to construct a lyrical story of vision and inspiration that both kids and adults will find fascinating.  

Tucker Nichols’ paper cut illustrations are as playful and full of imagination as a kindergarten classroom. Using simple shapes and a gorgeous palette Nichols crafts portraits, collages, and landscapes that are movingly effective in depicting the San Francisco Bay area, the rising Golden Gate Bridge, and the personalities involved in this fun history of a beloved monument.

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray is a must for school and public libraries, a wonderfully inspiring addition to children’s bookshelves, and a colorful coffee table book for any home.

Ages 4 – 10 and up

McSweeney’s, 2015 | ISBN 978-1940450476

Click here to learn more about Tucker Nichols and his work.

Historic Bridge Awareness Month Activity

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Golden Gate Bridge Coloring Page

 

Get out your markers, colored pencils, or crayons and color this printable Golden Gate Bridge Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review