December 10 – Nobel Prize Day

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About the Holiday

When Alfred Nobel’s will was read after his death on December 10, 1896, his heirs were taken by surprise. Nobel had signed a new will the year before, leaving most of his wealth to create prizes recognizing those who had done their best to benefit mankind in the fields of physics, chemistry,  medicine, literature, and peace. Opposition to this will on the part of the family and those Nobel had chosen to award the prize delayed Nobel’s wishes until 1901. Today, the awards include a prize for economics and are announced in early October. The awards are presented on December 10 in Stockholm, Sweden, except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is awarded in Oslo, Norway.

Jane Addams Day falls on the same date to commemorate her achievement in being the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her work to bring about social change, equality, and peace. Each year the Jane Addams Peace Association presents awards to outstanding children’s books that promote peace and justice. To learn more about Jane Addams and the Jane Addams Peace Association, visit janeaddamspeace.org.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams

Written by Tanya Lee Stone | Illustrated by Kathryn Brown

 

On a busy street stands a very special house where anyone is welcome and some find a home. In 1889 Jane Addams, a wealthy young woman, bought an elegant house in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Why? At just six years old on a trip with her father, Jane “noticed that not everyone lived like her family did.” Right then she vowed that when she grew older, she would live in a poor community and “find a way to fix the world.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane was brave and strong. Sometimes she and her stepbrother George would “sneak away at night to explore in nearby caves.” Jane was also smart and “read and read her father’s book collection,” which also served as the town library. Unlike most women at the time, Jane went to college. She attended Rockford Female Seminary and “graduated at the top of her class.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

After graduation, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, and when her father died that same summer, “Jane felt lost.” Two years later some friends invited her to travel to Europe with them. Although they went to the opera, museums, and many beautiful places, it was an experience in London that stuck with her. There she saw many “people in ragged clothes with outstretched hands, begging a cart vendor to buy his rotten fruits and vegetables that hadn’t sold at the market.” 

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When Jane returned home, the question of how she could help nagged at her. She returned to London to learn about Toynbee Hall, where poor and wealthy people lived together and learned from each other. Here, skills, such as cooking, were taught to provide people with the education to find jobs. Toynbee Hall was called a settlement house, because the rich people who worked there lived there as well.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane now knew what she wanted to do. In 1889 Chicago was a diverse city with a large immigrant population. Many didn’t speak English, which made it hard for them to find jobs. “Large families were crammed into ramshackle houses with no running water.” Garbage lay in the street, and tough kids ran wild with nothing else to do.

Jane found a large house in the middle of one of these areas that had once belonged to Charles J. Hull and upon his death had been given to his cousin, Helen Culver.  When Helen discovered what Jane wanted to do, she donated the house for free. Jane left the house unlocked, letting people know that they could come there whenever they needed. In time, people did find their way to Hull House when they were hungry or out of work. Jane also had her own way of dealing with unruly children or those who didn’t understand her generosity. Once when a man broke into Hull House twice because he had no job and no money, Jane gave him a job.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane helped the neighborhood in other ways too. She built a public bath so that people could stay clean and avoid illness. She convinced “public officials to build more public baths.” Because children had nowhere to play, Jane convinced a neighbor to give her his unused lot near Hull House. She tore down the buildings and built Chicago’s first playground. For kids whose parents worked long hours, she started a morning kindergarten and after school clubs. She also began offering evening classes for children who worked during the day.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane had help with her endeavors. Her friend “Ellen Gates Starr was her partner from the start.” Many other people also helped. They moved into Hull House and “taught literature, art, English, math, science, and cooking.” Hull House continued to grow, and by 1907 Jane oversaw thirteen buildings, including “a gymnasium, coffee house, theater, music school, community kitchen, and an art gallery.”

By the early 1920’s more than 9,000 people visited Hull House every week. Jane’s work “changed a bad neighborhood into a great and strong community.” Today, you can still see Jane Addams’ commitment to others in the community centers that bring people together in nearly every city and town.

An Author’s Note with more information on Jane Addams follows the text.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Tanya Lee Stone brings the story of Jane Addams’ work in Chicago to children in a compelling biography that gives readers a fully developed portrait of this most amazing woman. Stone’s active and evocative language puts children in the Hull House neighborhood, allowing them to get a feeling for and understanding of the issues of the time. Stone’s excellent examples of how Jane Addams responded to a variety of problems facing her community and even Hull House itself, demonstrate how generosity, empathy, and kindness can make positive changes in people’s lives. Depictions of Jane’s early compassion and commitment give children a sense that they too can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Kathryn Brown’s riveting illustrations capture Jane’s early moments of concern for others, bravery, and study that informed her adult life; times of decision and cooperation that led to the establishment of Hull House; scenes of poverty, upheaval, and need that touched Jane’s heart; and images of her successes in Chicago that inspired others around the country. Brown’s softly hued watercolors are beautifully infused with realistic period details and honest emotion that provide readers with a strong foundation for understanding and appreciating the life of Jane Addams.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams is an inspiring choice for children with a philanthropic heart and to open discussions on how one person can make a difference. The book would be a welcome addition to home and classroom libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0805090499

To learn more about Tanya Lee Stone and her books, visit her website.

You can view a gallery of illustration work by Kathryn Brown on her website

Nobel Prize Day Activity

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Jane Addams Coloring Page Poster

 

Jane Addams is an inspiration to all! Print this Jane Addams Coloring Page and hang it in your room or locker to inspire you to make a difference and be a positive influence in your community!

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You can find The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 16 -It’s National Young Readers Week

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by Pizza Hut and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress since 1989, this week-long holiday centers on raising awareness of reading. Schools participate in setting reading goals for their students who are then rewarded for meeting them. Principals, teachers, and families get involved too, as kids all over the country get excited about reading.

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise

By David Ezra Stein

 

The little red chicken was excited to come home from school and tell her Papa the amazing thing she’d learned that day. “Today,” she said, “my teacher told us every story has an elephant of surprise.” She grabbed her papa’s arm and hurried him to the big comfy chair to read a story and find the elephant. Papa corrected her, saying that her teacher hadn’t mentioned an elephant of surprise but an element of surprise. What’s that? Chicken wanted to know.

Papa explained that the element of surprise is the part that “makes you say, ‘Whoa! I didn’t know that was going to happen.’” That sounded like an elephant to Chicken, so she urged her papa to start reading. Papa opened the book with a caution that he didn’t think there were any elephants in the story. Papa began reading The Ugly Duckling. He had just gotten to the part where the ugly duckling peered into the pond at his reflection and discovered that… “Surprise! I’m an Elephant!” The blue elephant with pink wings and a waterlily hat thanked Chicken for finding him.

Papa looked askance at Chicken, but Chicken was undaunted and argued that her teacher had said that every good story had an elephant, that The Ugly Duckling was a good story, and therefore The Ugly Duckling “must have an elephant of surprise.”

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Copyright David Ezra Jones, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Next Chicken picked out the story of Rapunzel. Papa read, and the Prince had just climbed up the tower and was gazing at his love while she said… “Surprise! I’m an Elephant!” The elephant was impressed by Chicken’s powers of detection. Papa considered his little chicken and told her that the idea of an elephant in Rapunzel was “ludicrous.” But Chicken just looked at him with eyes sad and sorry for the poor elephant “waiting for someone to find him.”

Chicken told Papa she had to read one more story and find the elephant for homework. Papa was resigned. Chicken pulled The Little Mermaid off the shelf and Papa began to read. The little mermaid drank the magic potion, crawled from the sea, and fainted. When she awoke, the prince was there, and she saw that her dream had come true—she had… “elephant legs! Wow! That was a surprise!” Chicken exclaimed.

Now that Chicken had found her three elephants, Papa was ready to tell her a story that could in no way have elephants in it. Chicken was ready with her pencils to draw the pictures. Papa’s story was about a daughter who loved elephants so much she saw them everywhere—even when there were no elephants. There were no elephants when she got dressed or when she had breakfast before she went to… “Elephant school!” Chicken was so happy to find an elephant right at the end of the story that she gave Papa a big hug before asking him to help her with her math homework.

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Copyright David Ezra Jones, 2018, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

You can feel the giggles forming in giddy anticipation of where the elephant of surprise will appear from the very first page of David Ezra Stein’s adorable sequel to Interrupting Chicken. The little red chicken’s glee at her certainty that an elephant lives in every good story is infectious, and empathetic readers will be on the lookout for this well-placed pachyderm. Stein expertly wrings droll humor from the juxtaposition of the flowery retellings of The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid with the weighty substitution of the elephant at the moment of greatest suspense.

The endearing relationship between Papa and his little chicken is one of the sweetest charms of this series, and Stein fills every page with this warmth through his color palette of rich reds and blues and the little details of home: a steaming cup of tea sits on a small table next to Papa’s chair, Chicken brings in a snack of chips and dip to munch while listening, and a single lamp throws a cozy glow over the room. It’s easy to see by the gleam in little chicken’s eyes that she cherishes not only the stories but her special time with Papa. Young readers will embrace Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise with the same zeal.

For laugh-out-loud, snuggly story times, Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise can’t be beat. Whether your child is a fan of Interrupting Chicken or just meeting the little red chicken for the first time, David Ezra Stein’s sequel makes a perfect gift and will be a favorite addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763688424

National Young Readers Week Activity

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Elephant Coloring Pages

 

Color these pages and put them in your favorite books to make sure you can always find an elephant of surprise inside!

Elephant Coloring Page 1 | Elephant Coloring Page 2

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You can find Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

October 10 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

During National Book Month readers give special thought to the authors and illustrators who share their creativity and insight in books for all ages. Children especially benefit from learning about all the wonders of their world, from familiar people, places, and events to those from different cultures. Being introduced to world languages, festivals, traditions, and more through books gives children a sense of belonging and community. There are so many voices to be heard! This month visit your local bookstore or library and discover some of the amazing new books on the shelves! 

This week I’m happy to be sharing five new board books from Little Simon and to be partnering with them in an amazing giveaway of all five books. Simon & Schuster sent me the books to check out. All opinions are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below. Watch every day this week for another terrific title!

Día de los Muertos (Celebrate the World)

Written by Hannah Eliot | Illustrated. By Jorge Gutierrez

 

At the end of October, the holiday Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, takes place, the narrator tells readers. “Día de los Muertos is an ancient tradition celebrated in Mexico and other places around the world.” It’s a time to remember family and friends who have passed away and to celebrate their lives. Preparations for the holiday include baking delicious “sweet rolls called pan de muertos, or bread of the dead.” Atole, a hot sweet and spicy drink goes with it too.

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Flor de muertos, or the flower of the dead, is picked to add to decorations and to our altares. On the altars there are also pictures of loved ones, items that they liked, and candles. “The light of the candles and the smell of the flowers help guide the spirits back to us.” There are a lot of colorful skeletons too. Some are huge while others are tiny. They’re painted and even dressed up. Then they’re posed “doing silly things, like playing the guitar or dancing or even taking a bath!”

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Not only are the altars festive, but the whole town is decorated  with cut paper designs called papel picado and calaveras, or skulls, many of which are made of sugar and icing. “We do all this to celebrate the beauty of life and death rather than mourn it.” At the end of the holiday, people visit the cemetery to clean tombstones of family and friends, play music, and tell stories about their lives. At the end of the holiday all the decorations are put away, but our memories of loved ones “stay in our hearts forever.”

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Through Hannah Eliot’s engaging story, children learn the meaning and traditions of Día de los Muertos from a child narrator who is excited to share the holiday with readers. Eliot clearly explains the various parts of the celebrations, emphasizing the uplifting remembrance of loved ones who have passed away. Descriptions of the preparations, food, decorations, and skeletons will entice kids who don’t celebrate the holiday to learn more while also helping them to understand the significance of these holiday elements when they see them in their community, at stores, and elsewhere. For children looking forward to the holiday, Día de los Muertos is a magical and warm-hearted look at this spirit-filled tradition.

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Each of Jorge Gutierrez’s vibrant illustrations is a feast for little eyes as children eagerly collect decorations and make special dishes for the holiday. Calaveras and skeletons, sporting mustaches, hats, colorful painted designs, and wide, toothy smiles dot the pages. Portraits of loved ones who have passed away hang on walls while their spirits, smiling and rimmed in a blue glow, stand nearby. Similarly, spirits hover over children as they decorate skeletons, happy to check out the likenesses the kids are creating. The fun and poignancy of this holiday are especially demonstrated on double-page spreads of a candlelit altar and a festive town center, where the whole community has come to celebrate, as well as in images of families spending time in the cemetery and finally saying goodbye to the visiting spirits as they float upward and away for another year.

Día de los Muertos is a dazzling book for youngest and older readers. An informative and enchanting introduction to a popular holiday, the book would be an excellent addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 4 and up

Little Simon, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534415157

Discover more about Jorge Gutierrez, his art, and his animation on his website.

The Gift of Story Time Giveaway

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Little Simon board books make the perfect gift for all of the young readers in your life! With cute and creative illustrations, accessible and engaging stories, and the perfect size and durability, these books are great for new parents and for reading aloud. These fun series teach important lessons and concepts through adorable characters, interesting stories, and hilarious creatures!

One (1) winner receives this collection of five sweet stories from Little Simon

  • The Itsy Bitsy School Bus, written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček
  • Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud, written by Ame Dyckman |illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
  • Día de los Muertos, written by Hannah Eliot | illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
  • This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Daniel Roode
  • Hello Knights!, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Chris Dickason

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, October 8 – 14. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 15.

 Giveaway open to US addresses only | Prizing and samples provided by Little Simon.

National Book Month Activity

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Día de los Muertos Coloring Pages

 

Día de los Muertos is vibrant and fun! Celebrate the holiday with these two coloring pages thanks to Topeka Día de los Muertos!

Día de los Muertos Coloring Page 1 | Día de los Muertos Coloring Page 2

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You can find Día de los Muertos at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

August 7 – National Lighthouse Day

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About the Holiday

For centuries along rocky shores, lighthouses have stood as sturdy beacons warning ships at sea of dangerous waters. In 1789, the United States Congress approved an Act for “the establishment and support of lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers and the commission of the first Federal lighthouse, the Cape Henry Lighthouse at Cape May, Virginia Beach.” Two hundred years later, the anniversary of this historic event was celebrated with another Congressional resolution sponsored by Senator John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, which designated August 7 as National Lighthouse Day. On this day, where possible, the country’s lighthouses are open to the public for viewing and tours. To celebrate today, visit a lighthouse if you live close by or read up on lighthouses and the work of brave lighthouse keepers throughout history.

Hello Lighthouse

By Sophie Blackhall

 

“On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse.” It is sturdy and shines its greeting far out to sea, “guiding the ships on their way.” “Hello! …Hello! …Hello!” The lighthouse has just gotten a new keeper. He begins his job by polishing the lens, refilling the oil, trimming the wick, and giving the “round rooms a fresh coat of sea-green paint.” He works at night too, making sure that the clockwork is wound to keep the lamp moving and writing in the logbook.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

To have his tea, the keeper must boil his water and for lunch or dinner he fishes for cod right from the lighthouse window. He wishes for someone to talk to—the special someone he writes letters to. He puts these letter in bottles and throws them into the sea. Outside, the wind whips up the waves and they crash against the lighthouse.

One day, the keeper spies the tender ship that is bringing him “oil and flour and pork and beans…and his wife.” The next day fog descends, thick and gray. Instead of a beam of light, a bell clangs to warn the ships away. But, still, a ship founders and breaks apart on the rocks. “Not a moment to lose, the keeper rows out. He pulls three sailors from the deep, black sea. He and his wife wrap them in warm blankets and serve them hot tea. The keeper makes note of all this in his log.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

In the winter, “the sea turns into a carpet of ice.” The keeper falls ill, and his wife tends to him as well as to the light. She runs up and down the spiral stairs to feed her husband broth and “chip ice off the lantern room windows.” At last his fever breaks. With warmer weather the ice melts, giving way to icebergs that float by going south. “Whales pass by on their journey north.”

Inside the lighthouse, the keeper’s wife is about to have a baby. She walks around and around, while “her husband boils water and helps her breath in—and out.” When the baby is born, the keeper notes the time and date in the logbook. “The sky erupts in swirls of green. Hello! …Hello! …Hello!”

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

The baby is a toddler when the tender brings an unexpected letter with the coast guard seal along with its regular supplies. After reading it, the keeper tends to the light “just as he’s always done,” but he “knows it’s not for long.” Through the telescope, the keeper and his wife watch the horizon for the arrival of the coast guard. When they come, they install a new light—one that runs by machine. There is “no lamp to fill, no wick to trim. The keeper’s work is done.”

He and his wife and little girl “pack their belongings into the boat and wave farewell to the gulls.” As they sail away on the ship, they look back and say “Good-bye, Lighthouse! Good-bye! …Good-bye! …Good-bye!” From its perch on the tiny island, the lighthouse sends out its constant beam through crashing waves and enveloping fog—”Hello! …Hello! …Hello?” From across the bay, a light from a little house “beams back. Hello! …Hello! …Hello! Hello, Lighthouse!”

An expensive and fascinating Author’s Note about lighthouses, the life of a lighthouse keeper, and how Hello Lighthouse came to be follows the text.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

As I read Hello Lighthouse, I saw myself as a child—a displaced New Englander growing up in Florida who loved everything about the craggy northern coastline and its history. I would have absolutely adored Sophie Blackall’s detailed and atmospheric book, and today’s young readers will too. The story of the light’s last keeper reveals the work and contemplations of the men and families dedicated to keeping shipping lanes safe. The weather and seasons—and ever-present logbook—are characters in their own right, just as they were for the conscientious and brave lighthouse keepers. Happy surprises—the arrival of the keeper’s wife and baby—will delight children as they add to the depth of the story.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Blackall’s stunning illustrations will swell readers’ hearts with the same intensity as the rolling seas.  A cutaway image of the lighthouse offers a realistic view of the five levels of living space accessed by a winding staircase that ultimately leads to the lens. Thrilling portrayals of choppy seas, wind-whipped crashing waves, pea-soup-thick fog, and sailors thrown from their wrecked ship will rivet children to the story. The cyclical nature of a keeper’s work mirrors the round rooms of the lighthouse and is represented throughout the story with circular, porthole-like snapshots of the keeper at work and round accents in the home, such as rugs, tables, and the quilt pattern on the couple’s bed. The final image of the family—the baby now a little girl—communicating with their old home anchors the story in history, togetherness, and a love of the sea.

Hello Lighthouse is a gorgeous, enlightening, and cozy read-aloud for home and classroom libraries that will enthrall young readers again and again.

Ages 4 – 9

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0316362382

To learn more about Sophie Blackall, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Lighthouse Day Activities

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Lighthouse Coloring Page

 

This lighthouse perched by the sea is a beautiful reminder of the days when a keeper lived and worked at his lighthouse. Give this printable page some color and shine!

Lighthouse Coloring Page

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National Archives Lighthouses from the Collection

 

If you’re fascinated by lighthouses, you’ll love exploring these drawings from the United States National Archives. Click below to download a pdf of lighthouses from around the country. 

The National Archives of the United States Coloring Book of Lighthouses

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You can find Hello Lighthouse at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 9 – World Doll Day

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About the Holiday

Dolls have been part of childhood from earlies times. Once simple cloth or wooded carved figures, dolls have evolved over the years to cry, talk, and move in almost a lifelike way.  Although dolls have changed, one thing has stayed the same: they are much-loved companions, especially for little ones. Adults are also fascinated by dolls, and collectible dolls of all types have an ardent following. Today’s holiday was established in 1986 by Margaret Seeley to spread the “universal message of happiness and love.” People are encouraged to give a doll to a child of a family member or friend or to donate a doll to a child in need. The day is also celebrated with special events and doll shows.

Doll-E 1.0

By Shanda McCloskey

 

“Charlotte’s head was always in the cloud.” She knew everything about computers and was plugged in to the (virtual) realities of each day. One day her mother bought her a present. Charlotte wondered at what kind of electronic marvel might lie underneath the wrapping. When the robotic arm she’d build untied the bow and tore off the paper, Charlotte gazed at the cloth doll in the little stroller uncertainly.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

She wasn’t sure how to play with it; where was the instruction manual? Charlotte took the doll to her lab and tried to engage it in her favorite video game and to get it to dance under the revolving disco ball, but the doll just sat on the floor and stared at her. Suddenly, the doll said “Ma-ma.” Charlotte didn’t think she was Mama material, but then she had a thought: “If the doll could talk, then it must have a power supply.”

Sure enough when she opened the back, she found two batteries. This was more like it! Since the doll’s only word seemed to be “Ma-ma,” Charlotte ran an update on it to increase its vocabulary. But before she could finish, her dog grabbed the doll by the leg and ran off with it. Before Charlotte could stop him, Blutooth had ripped the doll apart.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Charlotte collected the doll’s arms, legs, and head, gathered some more supplies, and went to work in her lab. “With a few spare parts and a bit of code, Charlotte changed the doll.” It looked at Charlotte with its bright eyes and smile and said, “H-e-l-l-o m-y n-a-m-e i-s D-o-l-l-E 1.0.” “And the doll changed Charlotte too.” Charlotte loved Doll-E. She read to it, and played with it, and took it outside, where its fast stroller and new remote-controlled robotic arms were perfect for walking Blutooth.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Shanda McCloskey wonderfully inventive doll story for a new generation will delight children and remind adults that while toys may change, the feelings associated with them never do. Sprinkled with puns and led off with a just-right first line, McCloskey’s smart story shines. Charlotte shows heart and intelligence as she embraces her new doll and makes it a reflection of her own life—just as children have always done with their toys. Charlotte, as a computer whiz, makes a captivating role model for kids, especially girls who code or would like to.

There’s so much to admire in McKloskey’s illustrations, from Charlotte’s dedicated work space/lab outfitted with hand tools, spare parts, and craft supplies to her sweet determination to understand her new, simple doll. Clever details, such as a light bulb hanging over Charlotte’s head when she gets a brilliant idea and a Frankenstein-esque scene as Charlotte repairs her doll add depth and fun to the story’s theme.

A spirited story, Doll-E 1.0 clicks all the buttons as a must for home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0316510318

Discover more about Shanda McCloskey, her books, and her art on her website.

World Doll Day Activity

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Russian Nesting Dolls Coloring Page

 

Russian nesting dolls are fun to play with! Open one up and see what’s inside! Then another… and another… and another…. Grab your crayons or pencils and your scissors and enjoy this coloring page!

Russian Nesting Dolls Coloring Page

Picture Book Review

May 8 – National Teacher Day

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About the Holiday

As the school year winds down, we take this week and today in particular to honor and thank the teachers that make a difference in our lives. Teachers open the world to their students by instilling a love of learning through their enthusiasm, caring, and creativity.  Before you move on to a new class next year, don’t forget to tell your teacher or teachers how much they’ve meant to you.

Because I Had a Teacher

Written by Kobi Yamada | Illustrated by Natalie Russell

 

A little bear has lots to say about his or her teacher. It may come as no surprise that this teacher has instilled in the bear a love of learning. But it goes beyond that. The little one reveals that “because I had a teacher, I discovered that I could do much more than I thought I could.” 

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Copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

He also realizes that if one thing is harder than the rest, that’s okay too. Because of having such a wonderful teacher, the child is ready for any challenges that come and understands that there are “lots of ways of being smart.” Mistakes are not a big deal either, since they happen when you’re trying to get things right. And those things that are the hardest? They bring the little bear the most satisfaction to achieve.

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Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

“Because I had a teacher,” the little bear says, “I know how good it feels when someone is happy to see me.” Not only that, but the child knows a friend is always near and that there is always someone who can help out. The bear’s teacher has introduced vast new worlds to explore and has fostered the little learner’s imagination. In fact, the bear feels that nothing is impossible. Then the little bear gives the best compliment of all: “Because I had you, I learned to believe in me.”

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Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

Kobi Yamada’s heartwarming love letter from student to teacher is a touching tribute to one of the most important relationships in life. One of the wonderful aspects of the story is its fluidity, which allows for multiple interpretations on the student and teacher dynamic. The lyrical prose is appropriate for a traditional teacher/student pair, but the bond could also easily be between a parent and child, a grandparent and grandchild, or any caregiver and their small charge. The book could also be read the other way around with the endearing sentiments coming from an adult to a child, as children often teach adults much about life as well.

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Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

Natalie Russell’s softly hued illustrations masterfully do double duty as well. Quiet in their yellow background, line drawings, and adorable bears, Russell’s soy-ink drawings are also full of action and excitement. The teacher is just as engaged in the learning as the student—doing experiments, climbing trees, launching boats, and helping to paint masterpieces—making their relationship balanced and one of equal sharing. Gender neutrality is found throughout the book, making it appropriate for all children and adults.

Because I Had a Teacher would make a much-loved gift for any teacher, parent, or caregiver. It would also be a cozy read-together for bedtime or any story time.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Compendium, Inc., 2017 | ISBN  978-1943200085

To learn more about Kobi Yamada visit the Compendium, Inc. website.

View a portfolio of illustration work and sketches by Natalie Russell on her website.

World Teacher’s Day Activity

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Thank You, Teacher! Certificate

 

If you have a favorite teacher, here’s a printable Thank You, Teacher Certificate for you to color, fill out, and give to them today or any day.

Picture Book Review

April 27 – It’s National Park Week and Interview with Jennifer Thermes

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About the Holiday

Don’t you feel it? That little nudge to leave home and enjoy the outdoors again? Spring is the perfect time to discover or rediscover the beauty all around by visiting a national park. Whether you like hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, or just the quiet pleasure of a picnic, there’s a national park near you to enjoy. This year’s theme for National Park Week, which runs from April 21 through April 29, is “Park Stars” and encompasses everything from the starry skies to those rock-star rangers and volunteers who maintain the system of parks across the country. This year, why not join them in protecting our national parks and the wildlife that call them home.

I’m thrilled to partner with Abrams Books for a giveaway of one copy of Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail. See more details below.

Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail

By Jennifer Thermes

 

With eleven children, a farm to tend, and chores to do, Emma Gatewood’s days were plenty busy. When she needed a bit of escape, “a long ramble through the hills behind the farm was all Emma needed to set her heart right again.” So when her children had all left home and sparked by a magazine article about the Appalachian Trail, Emma put on her walking shoes and took to “‘the longest footpath in the world.’” The article had said that no woman had ever hiked the Trail from beginning to end, and Emma determined to change that.

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

On May 3, 1955, at the age of sixty seven, Emma left her home in Ohio and traveled to Mt. Oglethorpe in Georgia to begin her hike along the 2,190-mile-long Appalachian Trail. With just a light homemade sack and canvas shoes, Emma made her way up the trail, eating berries and drinking from streams as she went. When the trail took her through small towns and mountain farms, she got a real “supper and a cozy place to sleep.”

Word traveled about the older woman hiking the trail, and “Emma soon became known as ‘Grandma Gatewood.’” In June Emma crossed into Virginia and at the beginning of July took a quick jog through Maryland. The magazine article had said that hiking the trail was easy, but Emma had a different perspective. She once said the trail always seemed to “‘lead you right up over the biggest rock to the top of the biggest mountain they can find.’”

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Grandma Gatewood walked in all weather and saw sights that were sometimes dull, but more often stunning. During July she crossed Pennsylvania, traced an edge of New Jersey, and hopped a corner of New York State. Pennsylvania’s sharp rocks “tore the soles of Emma’s shoes, so she held them together with tape.” By this time the newspapers had heard about Emma too, and “reporters met her at almost every stop.” Pretty soon, the whole country was talking about her! When people asked her why she was doing it, she answered, “‘Just for the heck of it.’”

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

It was late summer and Emma was over halfway finished, but a bigger challenge was headed her way. A hurricane was swirling toward the East Coast. In early August, Emma hiked through Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. When the hurricane hit, she was soaked by rain, threatened by falling trees, and blown by the wind. She found shelter in a hut where a group of teenage boys were also waiting out the storm. They carried her across a swollen stream, and Emma continued her journey.

She met up with boy scouts and even went to tea with someone who had pinned an invitation to a tree along the trail. On September 3, she crossed from New Hampshire into Maine. Cold weather was coming, but the last mountain was in her sights. She bundled into every bit of clothes she had, and with torn shoes, cracked glasses, and aching muscles, Emma scrambled up the mountain all the way to the top. She had accomplished what she set out to do—and two years later, she did it again!

A timeline and an extensive author’s note about Emma Gatewood and the Trail follow the text.

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Inspiring from beginning to end, Jennifer Thermes’ story highlights a woman who lived life on her terms and accomplished a personal goal while, literally, blazing a trail for women and the elderly. The jaunty lilt of Thermes’ storytelling mirrors Emma’s brisk pace while giving readers an excellent sense of her personality and the twists, turns, and obstacles of the Appalachian Trail. Facts about landmarks along the trail are sprinkled throughout.

The story of Grandma Gatewood and the Appalachian Trail is a perfect match for Thermes’ superb artwork and map-making skills. Colorful and detailed two-page maps, set every three pages, keep readers apprised of the dates that Emma passed through each state on her trek north. In between, kids get to see Emma scaring off a bear, making friends with townspeople along the way, trudging up mountains, cooling her feet in rushing streams, climbing over rocks, and weathering the storm. Themes also includes some of the gorgeous vistas that have made the Appalachian Trail a must for hikers of all ages and experience.

Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail  would make an inspiring addition to home libraries for children who love nature, history, and the outdoors. The book would also enhance many classroom discussions and lesson plans from language arts to social studies to science.

Ages 5 – 9

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-1419728396

Discover more about Jennifer Thermes, her books, and her art on her website

Meet Jennifer Thermes

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I’m excited to talk with Jennifer Thermes today about mapmaking, her love of history, and how her own house inspired a book.

What drew you to Emma Gatewood as a subject for your latest biography? Have you ever hiked any part of the Appalachian Trail?

I was inspired by Emma’s independence and determination to do something just because she wanted to, without even thinking she might be too old. A few people had solo hiked the entire trail before her, but she did it at a time when it had fallen into disrepair, and when women’s lives were much more constricted. I was also fascinated by the idea of the Appalachian Trail– a footpath that follows so many miles of changing landscape–and wanted to weave a map of it throughout a story.

In your writing and illustrating, you seem to have an affinity for history. Do historical subjects inspire you? What is your favorite time period?

They do! A love of history has led to the non-fiction books I write and illustrate today. Really, there’s something fascinating about all eras, so I can’t say I have just one favorite. I’m very happy to see how many stories about lesser-known people and periods of history are being published today.

You started out as a map designer for magazines and newspapers. How did you get started creating maps? What kind of research goes into that work? Can you talk a little about the aesthetics of a good map?

I was a design major in art school but always wanted to draw. Maps were a good combination of design and drawing. Research involves gathering information about geography, land shapes, picture reference, and figuring out what to include or not. (To be clear, I’m not a cartographer, much as I admire the work they do!) For me, a good map tells a tale of its own, while also inspiring a reader to want to learn more about the story. Clarity is important, but that doesn’t necessarily mean simple. Poring over details can be the best part of looking at a map.

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

How did you transition from designing for magazines and newspapers into writing and illustrating for children?

My map work caught the eye of a children’s book editor who asked if I had any story ideas. (I did!) For a long time I thought of myself as more of an illustrator than a writer, but I’ve always been a big reader, so the writing part felt like a natural progression of storytelling.

I was intrigued to learn you own an 18th century farmhouse in Connecticut. I have an 1898 Connecticut farmhouse with many cool, tucked away features. What is one of your favorite things about your house? Was your first book When I Was Built inspired by your own home?

It was! Our kids were quite young when we bought our home, and we spent a lot of time fixing it up. As we uncovered clues about the house, they had questions about what life might have been like for the people who lived here over the years, which in turn inspired the book. Again, the theme circles back to a love of history.

What’s the best part of being a children’s author and illustrator?

I’m happiest when drawing, or puzzling over a new idea. The feeling of possibility is creatively fulfilling.

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Copyright Jennifer Thermes, 2018, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Do you have any anecdotes from an event with kids that you’d like to share?

“Are you as old as your house?” Kid’s questions are the best kind of unfiltered honesty.

What’s up next for you?

Not sure how much I can share yet, but I’ve recently finished black & white illustrations for a middle grade novel written by a super talented writer, coming out in early 2019. I’m very excited for that book. And currently, I’m immersed in writing and illustrating a picture book about the story of the island of Manhattan. (“Obsessed” is more like it—my history-geek self is on cloud nine!)

What’s your favorite holiday?

Darwin Day 

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog!

Thank you, Jennifer! I know we’ll all be on the lookout for that middle-grade novel, and I can’t wait to see your next picture book! I wish you all the best with Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail!

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You can find Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail at these booksellers:

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

You can connect with Jennifer Thermes on:

Facebook | InstagramTwitter | Pinterest

Grandma Gateway Hikes the Appalachian Trail Giveaway

 

I’m excited to partner with Abrams Books for Young Readers in this giveaway of

  • one copy of Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Thermes

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, April 27 – May 4. Already a follower? Thanks! Just  Retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on May 5.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers

National Park Week Activity

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National Park Coloring Pages and Map

 

The National Parks are home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Enjoy these coloring pages while you learn a little bit about four of them. Then check the map and see if there’s a National Park near you!

Acadia National Park | Everglades National Park | Mesa Verde National Park | Rocky Mountains National Park | National Parks Map

Picture Book Review