February 21 – It’s National Bird-Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

Spring comes early for our feathered friends. You may have noticed more bird activity in the past few weeks as birds get ready to build nests and mate. February can be a tough month for these little creatures, though. In some places snow still covers the ground, and the spring blooms that offer nutrition haven’t sprouted yet. To remedy this situation, in 1994 John Porter read a resolution into the United States’ Congressional record recognizing February as National Bird-Feeding Month. One-third of the American population have backyard feeders that provide the sustenance birds need to survive. To celebrate, if you have feeders make sure they are well stocked. If you don’t have a feeder in your yard, consider hanging one. Enjoying the beauty and songs of birds is a day brightener!

Warbler Wave

By April Pulley Sayre with Jeff Sayre

 

“In spring, as you nightly nap, / warblers flap / over oceans, lakes, / and mountains.” These tiny birds ride on streams of wind, navigating their way around buildings and towers and sharing space with bats, insects, and other birds. Then, nearly out of energy, they alight to rest and look for food.

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Copyright April Pulley Sayre, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

“They search. Stalk. / Wag. Walk. / So dainty, / these colorful diners.” They’re dots of color and intricate patterns among the leaves and “flit, like flying flowers.” They look and listen then dart to capture dinner. They are “crushers of caterpillars! / Slurpers of spiders!” Insects can hide from these clever hunters that know every nook and cranny to search.

And they’re not above nabbing a snack that a spider has so carefully wrapped. After a meal, “warblers sing. / Preen. / Scan the local scene.” But then as soon as nighttime falls, they’re off again, with miles to go until they reach their nesting grounds. Like good friends, they keep in touch with each other in the darkness as they fly “Surfing rivers of wind way up high…calling zeep, zeep, zeep in the sky.”

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Copyright April Pulley, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Following the lyrical text, an extensive discussion of the “Migration Marathon” warblers take each spring reveals fascinating facts about the birds, their instinct to migrate, and why and how they migrate as well as the role of science in recording warbler migration. For instance, warblers weigh no more than a couple of baby carrots, yet they fly hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles from their winter homes in the southern hemisphere to their summer homes in the northern United States and Canada.

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Copyright April Pulley Sayre, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Blackpoll warblers even undergo physical changes in preparation for their 4,000-mile journey taken three days at a time nonstop. And how do these tiny creatures find their way? They’re born with an innate knowledge of the direction they need to fly, and they navigate by the stars, the setting sun, and the earth’s magnetic field (which they may be able to see!). There’s much more to discover here, too, about the lovely warblers that may be flying through your area soon.

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Copyright April Pulley Sayre, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

April Pulley Sayre’s poetic narrative of the astounding migration warblers undertake every year is as bright and spry as her little subjects. Staccato sentences echo the birds’ quick, sure movements and alertness to the sounds and motions around them while longer passages flow with the rhythm of the birds in flight, soaring to the next stopping place and taking off again for home.

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Copyright April Pulley Sayre, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Gorgeous photographs of a fiery horizon and rising moon that invite warblers to the air each night open the book and lead to lush, close-up views of a variety of warblers in their regal colors and patterns. Their sharp eyes, attentive expressions, and perky personalities are on full display in their native habitat. As dusk descends once more over sea and forest, the warblers take wing while birdwatchers wait to see them.

For children who are bird lovers and for families who have backyard feeders or enjoy taking bird-watching walks, as well as for classroom science and story times, Warbler Wave is a beautiful addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Beach Lane Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481448291

To learn more about April Pulley Sayre her books, and her work, visit her website.

National Bird-Feeding Month Activity

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Pine Cone Bird Feeder

 

You don’t need a fancy bird feeder to help out the birds in your backyard. With a pine cone, birdseed, and a bit of peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening, you can make feeders that birds will flock to!

Supplies

  • Item to Cover, such as a pine cone, conical ice-cream cone, piece of toast or stale bread, bagel, paper towel or toilet paper tube
  • Peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening
  • Bird seed
  • String or wire for hanging
  • Large bowl or container
  • Knife for spreading

Directions

  1. Attach the string or wire to the item to be covered
  2. Cover the item with peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening
  3. Pour birdseed into a large bowl or container
  4. Roll the covered item in the birdseed until well covered
  5. Hang your homemade bird feeder!

Picture Book Review

February 20 – Love Your Pet Day

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About the Holiday

Whether you have a dog or cat, hamster or fish, parakeet, iguana, or llama, your pet is one of the most loved parts of your family. Animals’ funny antics, eager personalities, and unconditional love simply make life better. Today’s holiday encourages you to spend more time with your pet. A longer walk or playtime and a special treat will show your pet how much they mean to you. If you’ve been considering getting a pet, maybe today’s the day. Getting a pet can be life-changing—just as the man in today’s book discovers.

Seed Man

By Aiko Ikegami

 

“One day Seed Man came to town.” After he had dug a hole and chosen a seed from his bag, he planted it and then “called the fairies.” The fairies were very good gardeners. They tended the seed with special food and water and sang to it as it grew from a tiny sprout into a tall sapling and finally into a straight, strong tree.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Among its leafy branches, the tree bore fruit unlike any other. There was a toy bunny, bear, and duckling; a drum and a guitar; and a tricycle, train, and plane. There was even a puppy in a basket. When the fruit was ready, the fairies picked it and “delivered Seed Man’s gifts all over town” to the sleeping residents. “Even if someone didn’t know he needed a gift, Seed Man and the fairies knew.”

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

And that is how the man who lived alone with only a photograph of his wife and child to comfort him came to have the dog. When he awoke in his chair, holding the framed picture, he looked at the puppy sitting in her basket in front of him and said, “‘I don’t want a dog.’” As the puppy rolled over and wagged her tail and jumped to greet him, the man said, “‘Ay yi yi.’”  

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But then the man patted the dog and smiled at her. He poured milk into a bowl, and let the puppy sit on his lap. Everything was going well until a butterfly fluttered through the window and captured the dog’s attention. With a leap and a bound, the puppy chased after it, shaking the table and upsetting the coffee cup, the vase of flowers and the framed photograph.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

They all crashed to the floor, shattered.  “The man looked at the broken picture” and sent the dog away. Later, the sky darkened and rain pelted the window. The man wondered what the puppy would do. He picked up his umbrella and “went to look.” The sidewalks were crowded and he couldn’t see the dog anywhere. But the fairies knew right where to find her. They brought her back to the old man.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The man was so happy to see her, and she was happy to see her. He picked her up, and she licked his nose. The Seed Man watched the old man and the puppy together and “knew it was time.” The fairies carried the bag of seeds to the old man’s home and knocked on the door. Now a new Seed Man, his puppy, and the fairies are coming to town.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Aiko Ikegami’s enchanting story offers young readers much to consider about the nature of love and its power to broaden horizons and overcome loneliness, fear, and other emotions. For the old man, the companionship of the puppy opens his heart and reopens his eyes to the world around him. Previously focused on his own feelings and sadness, the man finds in the puppy someone else to care about, a compassion that soon extends to others. As Ikagami’s fairies know, each person has unique needs and responds to different inspirations.

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Ikegami’s whimsical illustrations fill in and expand on her story, the simplicity of which cleverly leaves it open to personal interpretations. Discussions may revolve around the gift of talent, how the seed of love grows when well planted and tended, and how the childlike fairies remind us that children are our greatest gift. And then there’s the Seed Man himself. Is he a mystical figure or can he be anyone paying kindness forward?

Ikegami clearly depicts the emotional transformation the old man experiences. At first stooped with sadness, his change of heart when he accepts the puppy comes with smiles and crinkled eyes, and when he is designated as the new Seed Man, his dramatic change in appearance and disposition shows children that love and purpose found lead to a happy life.

For opening discussions about many aspects of love and happiness, Seed Man is an original story that would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363797

Discover more about Aiko Ikegami, her books, and her art on her website.

Love Your Pet Day Activity

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A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

Picture Book Review

February 15 – National Flag Day of Canada

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About the Holiday

On February 15, 1965 the national flag of Canada was raised for the first time on Parliament Hill. National Flag Day of Canada was officially established in 1996. As Canadians celebrate the 53rd anniversary of their flag this year, they can take special pride as they watch their Olympic team strive for glory in Pyeongchang, South Korea under their distinctive maple-leaf flag. All across the country today, Canadians are cheering their athletes and their flag.

Carson Crosses Canada

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Kass Reich

 

Annie Magruder and her little dog, Carson, had a pretty great life living along the shore of the Pacific Ocean. One day a letter arrived for Annie from her sister Elsie. Elsie was sick and needed cheering up so Annie packed her bags, loaded up her camping gear, and “filled a cooler with baloney sandwiches.” For Carson she brought along dog food and of course Squeaky Chicken. They pulled away from their house and headed east.

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Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

“All morning they drove in the rattlebang car.” Were they there yet? Carson wanted to know. But they were on a loooong trip—all across Canada, Annie told him. She also said there’d be a surprise for him at the end. “Carson loved surprises. Squeaky Chicken had been a surprise. Every time Carson chewed, he got a brand-new noise. Skreeeee! Wheeeee! Iiiiiy!”

Twisty roads took them into the Rocky Mountains, where Annie pitched her tent for the night. Carson stood guard, watching for bears. The next day they rolled into dinosaur country. Carson could hardly control his excitement at seeing the enormous bones. Could this be his surprise? But Carson didn’t get to take a single bite—not even a little lick.

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Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

On day three they came to flat farmland, where “grain grew in carpets—yellow, blue, gold.” While Annie admired the wide-open sky during a picnic lunch, Carson chased after grasshoppers, finally snatching one for his dessert. On the next day, the sun was so hot that as Annie and Carson drove past Lake Winnipeg, they stopped to take a dip.

After that there were more days and even more days spent in the car passing forests of trees and boulders. Carson passed the time barking and wondering about his surprise. At night, when he and Annie camped, they listened to the loons calling, “Ooo-wooooo. Ooo-hoo-hoo.” When they reached Niagara Falls, they stopped to watch the thundering water and got soaked with its spray.

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Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

In Quebec City, Annie and Carson enjoyed French delights, including a pork pie called tourtière, which Carson gobbled up in two bites. Was this their destination? Oh, no—they still had a ways to go! Once, while Carson was napping, he heard Annie shout, “‘Look! The Atlantic Ocean!’” Carson was so thrilled to see an ocean once more that he ran to the edge and rolled in the mud until he was covered.

The next day brought “an island of red and green” as pretty as a postcard plus lobster rolls for two. Here, Annie told Carson, they were getting close. There was still one night’s stop, however. “In the campground that night, there was fiddle music—so friendly and fast, it made everyone dance. Annie clapped and jigged. Carson chased his tail.” With the promise of “‘tomorrow’” whispered in his ear, Carson fell asleep.

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Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

A ferry ride took them to Elsie’s. Her “house stood waiting beside the ocean. It was red like the house back home. Out came a woman who looked like Annie. Her steps were slow, but her smile was as wide as the sea.” Annie and her sister hugged for a long time until Carson yipped, looking for his surprise. Bounding toward him came a dog that looked “so much like Carson, it was like looking into a mirror.” It was his brother, Digby! They hadn’t seen each other since they were puppies. Spending time with Annie and Carson was just what Elsie needed. The four “loved the salt air. They loved the red house. And they loved their sweet time together.”

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Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

For young armchair travelers, Linda Bailey has crafted a wonderful story that combines the best of sightseeing with an emotional tug that is warm and uplifting. The love between Annie and Carson is evident from the first page and swells as they reunite with Elsie and Digby, taking readers along for the rewarding ride. Bailey’s lyrical and humorous view of Canada’s expansive beauty through the eyes of both Annie and Carson will delight kids and leave them wanting to learn more. The reaffirmation that family stays strong even across many miles will cheer children and adult readers alike.

Kass Reich’s gorgeous hand-painted gouache illustrations put children in the back seat of the little, well-packed “rattlebang” car with sweet Carson on a tour of Canada. They’ll view awesome redwood trees, majestic mountains, the bone yards of Dinosaur Provincial Park, Quebec City, fields, lakes, and clear nights. Reich’s vivid colors and rich details invite kids to linger over the pages and learn even more about Canada. Little ones will also like pointing out Squeaky Chicken, who is happily enjoying the trip as well.

The book’s endpapers provide a colorful map of Canada with Carson and Annie’s route clearly marked along with their sightseeing stops.

Carson Crosses Canada is a sweet, beautiful book that kids will want to read again and again. It would be a wonderful addition to home and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101918838  

Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website!

You can learn more about Kass Reich and her books as well as view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

National Flag Day of Canada Day Activity

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Make Me a Moose! Headband

 

Moose love calling Canada home! With this easy craft you can turn your hand prints into cute antlers to wear!

Supplies

  • Stiff brown paper
  • Brown hair band
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Tape

Directions

  1. Trace your hands with fingers spread on the brown paper. Leave a 1 – 2 inch tab on the end of the wrist for wrapping around the head band
  2. Cut out the hand prints
  3. Place one hand print on the right side of the headband with the thumb of the hand pointing up.
  4. Wrap the tab around the headband and secure with tape
  5. Place the second hand print on the left side of the headband with the thumb pointing up.
  6. Wrap the tab around the headband and secure with tape
  7. Enjoy being a Canadian Moose!

Picture Book Review

February 13 – Get a Different Name Day

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About the Holiday

It can be fun to try out new names or special nicknames in forming your identity. For those who are not so fond of their birth name, choosing a new name offers comfort, control, and happiness. Actors, writers, and other creative types sometimes change their name to something that is more memorable, easier to say, is flashier, or has more cred. To celebrate today’s holiday, try on a few different names. If you were going to change yours, what would you pick?

My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream?

Written by Jennifer Fosberry | Illustrated by Mike Litwin

 

Mom opens her daughter’s bedroom door with a cheery “‘Good morning, Isabella. It’s time to get up and out of bed.’” But the little girl yawns and stretches and most emphatically states, “‘My name is not Isabella!’” Mom plays along, wondering who has then been sleeping here. “‘My name is Sally,’” Isabelle states, “‘The greatest, toughest astronaut there ever was!’” Having Sally Ride in the house is fine with Mom, as long as she puts on her space suit and comes down for breakfast.

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Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010, text copyright Jennifer Fosberry, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

When the little girl comes to the table, it seems she is no longer Sally. Hmmm… her mother says. She doesn’t know who will eat the delicious waffles she has made. Annie, the greatest, fastest sharpshooter, grabs the syrup and aims for her target.

Soon it’s time for school, but when the bus arrives, Annie is nowhere to be found. In her place is “‘Rosa, the greatest, bravest activist that ever was.’ ‘Well, Rosa’” her mother says, “‘March over there and take your seat on the bus.’” School ends, but the bus doesn’t drop off Rosa. Instead, the freshly made chocolate chip cookies will be enjoyed by “‘Marie, the greatest, smartest scientist who ever was.’”

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Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010, text copyright Jennifer Fosberry, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

Her mom is happy to see Marie and offers to get the cookies while Marie discovers the answers to her homework. Well, the cookies must fill Marie up, because when dinner rolls around, Elizabeth Blackwell shows up to set the table. At bath time, Elizabeth doesn’t feel like soaking in the relaxing bubbles, so she sends “‘Mommy, the greatest, sweetest mother who ever was,’” instead.

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Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

With pajamas on and teeth brushed the “little girl climbed into bed, [and] the mother says, “‘Good night, Mommy.’” But Mommy is standing near the starlit window, so who is sleeping in the little girl’s bed? “‘Isabella, the sweetest, kindest, smartest, bravest, fastest, toughest, greatest girl that ever was.’” And as she sleeps, she “dreamed about who she would be tomorrow.”

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Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

In Jennifer Fosberry’s inspiring story, it’s not that the little girl doesn’t want to be Isabella, it’s that she wants to be the best Isabella she can be. In thinking about her role in the world, she’s chosen to emulate five of the most amazing women the world has ever known—and that’s just on day one. Fosberry’s ending, with its view toward tomorrow, allows children to consider all of the influential women throughout history and working today as role models. Her inclusion of “Mommy” as one of Isabella’s heroines is a welcome tribute to the job of motherhood. After all, it’s clear from the way Isabella’s mother supports her daughter’s alter egos without a “Sally who? or a “Rosa who?” that she has taught Isabella about these “greatest” women. It’s just one lesson this mother—and all mothers—teach their children.

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Mike Litwin will enchant readers with his colorful illustrations of Isabella and her transformations. Whimsical details and even the way Isabella’s stuffed toy mouse changes into a real companion for Sally, Rosa, Annie, Marie, and Elizabeth mirrors the power of imagination and education in the formation of a child’s identity and the discovery of their particular talents. Isabella is adorable with her purple hair—just another proof of her individuality—and inspirational in her can-do attitude

Short biographies and portraits of Sally Ride, Rosa Parks, Annie Oakley, Marie Curie, and Elizabeth Blackwell follow the text.

A book that will charm as well as educate, My Name is Not Isabella is a classic that makes a great introduction to the women mentioned in the story and can spur further discovery for younger readers. It would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2010 | ISBN 978-1402243950

Discover more about Jennifer Fosberry and her books on her website.

Learn more about Mike Litwin, his books, and his art on his website.

Get a Different Name Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-initial-bookend

First and Last Initials Bookends

 

You can show your pride in your name (or play with changing it) with this easy craft that will keep all your books tidy on their shelf! This makes a great gift too!

Supplies

  • Sturdy wooden letter blocks in the child’s first and last initials. Or, if the child would like to try on a new name or nickname, the first letter of their new name.
  • Chalkboard or acrylic paint
  • Colored chalk
  • Paint brush

 

Directions

  1. Paint the letters, let dry
  2. With the chalk write words that describe you or names of your heroines and/or heroes
  3. Display your bookends

Picture Book Review

February 12 – Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was born in 1809 in Hodgenville, Kentucky.  He rose from poverty to become a statesman, lawyer, and the 16th president of the United States, serving from 1861 until he was assassinated in 1865. He guided the country through the Civil War and on January 1, 1983 signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery. By 1890, Lincoln’s birthday was recognized as a state holiday but never became a federal holiday. The celebration of Lincoln’s birthday was combined with George Washington’s in 1971 when President’s Day was instituted. Only a handful of states still recognize Lincoln’s birthday as a separate state holiday. 

Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country)

Written by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer | Illustrated by Stacy Innerst

 

Throughout his life things were grim for Abraham Lincoln, but he had a way of responding that made them better. He was born in 1809 in a log cabin that had a dirt floor, cornhusk mattresses, and cracks in the walls so thick that the snow blew in. All day long he did backbreaking work for his strict father, but in the evenings his father “told jokes and the family laughed together.” Of his father, Lincoln once said, “‘My father taught me how to work, but not to love it. I’d rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh.’”

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

Even as a child, Lincoln loved to read and write. His mother died when Lincoln was only nine years old, but “words and humor seemed to ease the pain.” He liked to get together with friends and read aloud from joke books, and at the age of eleven, he wrote his first nonsense poem. Lincoln loved to learn, but because of all the work at home, he “had a total of only one year of official schooling.” Instead, he read everything he could.

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

He grew up to be six feet, four inches tall, with huge feet and hands, and a big nose. His appearance was one of the things he joked about the most. When he was nineteen, Lincoln moved to New Salem, Illinois. He had such a reputation for humor that a local judge asked him to come to court to comment on cases. Here, Lincoln learned the importance of words and how they could be used by watching and listening to the lawyers. Despite all their learning, these men couldn’t fool Abe. He once commented of one lawyer: “‘That man can pack the most words into the least ideas of any man I know.’”

When he was twenty-three he served in the military, but he said the only battles he saw were with mosquitoes. After he was discharged that same year, he ran for the Illinois state legislature and lost. When he tried again two years later, he won and went on to serve for four terms, keeping the “‘House in a continuous roar of merriment.’”

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

As he got older his looks and sometimes depressive personality only seemed to get worse, but Lincoln kept joking and was a favorite of children. When he, himself, became a lawyer, he was brilliant at summing up hours of testimony in “one clever story that would get the jury on his side.” Then he met Mary Todd, who was “witty, bubbly, and very smart about politics.” He loved her and she loved him, but her family rejected him as not wealthy or high-society enough. Even their attitude, though, was fodder for Lincoln’s jests.

When Abe and Mary did marry, he joked about their sixteen-inch height difference, and when they had four boys, he kept them entertained with his humor. Lincoln even thought jokes should be taught in school because he believed they made kids smarter.

Lincoln continued to run for higher political offices, losing many races, but always maintaining his sense of humor. Along the way, he gained a reputation for honesty. He also had a talent for skewering even serious topics in a way that brought out the truth: “‘Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.’”

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

When Lincoln was elected president, his White House rang with laughter. Guests were charmed, while reporters, those wanting inside knowledge, or people asking for favors were left chuckling but not any wiser. During the Civil War years, Lincoln alleviated the stress and kept a clear head by reading his favorite humor writers, encouraging his advisers to do the same.

Lincoln’s talent for words helped keep the country together even through its worst crisis.  “His gift for language—and how it can inspire people—is one reason he is considered one of our best presidents” even though during his presidency he was one of the most unpopular due to his politics. When he was shot at Ford’s Theater five days after the war ended, Lincoln was attending a comic play and may have been “laughing even in the final moments of his life.” Abraham Lincoln had an amazing life, fueled by his sense of humor that took him from a tiny log cabin to the White House and into American’s hearts.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lincoln-tells-a-joke-lincoln-portrait

Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2016, text copyright Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, 2016. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer have written a terrific biography of Abraham Lincoln focusing on the personality trait that made him such a unique individual and uniquely qualified to shepherd America through its most difficult time. Lincoln’s sense of humor was charged with intelligence and true cleverness and showcased his love and understanding of words and language. Children, with their own well-developed senses of humor and affinity for a good joke, will be captivated by Krull and Brewer’s conversational tone that is sprinkled with the wit and wisdom Abraham Lincoln displayed from the time he, himself, was a child. Lincoln Tells a Joke reveals not only facts from Lincoln’s life but the all-important aspects of his character that allowed him to rise above his lack of formal education and leading-man looks to become one of the most admired men ever born. 

Stacy Innerst’s hip, folk-art-style paintings mirror Abraham Lincoln’s humor with unusual perspectives, quirky details, and plenty of peppered-in “ha, ha, ha’s” while highlighting his stature both as a sensitive, thoughtful man and as a politician. Lincoln’s elongated arms and legs stretch across the pages, children laughing at his jokes don’t even reach his knees, and the tall tower of papers in front of him on his desk completely hide him except for his arms. Innerst’s color pallet of muddy sepia tones, rusty reds, and deep aqua blues; flat landscapes, and political imagery give readers the feel and spirit of the 1800s Midwest and Washington DC. In a moving double-spread illustration, Innerst seats Lincoln at his desk as the handwritten words of the Gettysburg Address form the backdrop. As the story closes, Innerst re-imagines the Lincoln Memorial statue with  Lincoln laughing while reading his favorite book, Quinn’s Jests. It’s a fitting tribute to both Lincoln and the power of laughter.

Lincoln Tells a Joke is a fantastic biography for home libraries for children who like biographies, history, Abraham Lincoln, or a well-told story. The book would be an inspired choice for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016

Discover more about Kathleen Krull and her books on her website.

Learn more about Paul Brewer, his books and his art on his website.

To view a portfolio of books and artwork by Stacy Innerst, visit his website.

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-abraham-lincoln's-stovepipe-hat-chalkboard

Abe Lincoln’s Stovepipe Hat Chalkboard

 

Abraham Lincoln was known for the black top hat he wore – and for his inspiring words In this activity you can learn how to make a top hat chalkboard to use for your own drawings or inspiring words!

Supplies

  • Cereal Box (I used a large sized cereal box), cardboard or poster board
  • Chalkboard Paint (black)
  • Paint brush
  • Hot Glue Gun or extra-strength glue
  • Removable mounting squares
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. If you are using cardboard or poster board: cut a rectangle at least 8 inches wide by 12 inches long for the hat and 12 inches long by 2 inches wide for the brim (but your top hat can be any size you’d like!)
  2. If you are using a Cereal Box: open the seams of the Cereal Box
  3. Cut the panels of the cereal box apart
  4. Take one face panel and one side panel
  5. With the chalkboard paint, paint both panels
  6. Let the panels dry
  7. Attach the side panel to the bottom of the face panel to create the shape of Lincoln’s top hat
  8. Hang Abe Lincoln’s Top Hat Chalkboard 

Picture Book Review

February 10 – National Umbrella Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-cover

About the Holiday

When you grab your umbrella and open it (not indoors of course!), do you ever think about what an ancient device it is? The umbrella was invented over four thousand years ago and appears in art from ancient Greece, Egypt, China, and Assyria. The Chinese developed waterproof umbrellas to use in the rain by waxing and lacquering paper umbrellas. One of the first umbrella shops opened in London in 1830 and is still open for business there today. If it’s raining or snowing where you are today, celebrate the holiday by taking your umbrella for a spin. If you’re having fair weather, why not get yourself a new umbrella? After all, spring is coming!

The Green Umbrella

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Maral Sassouni

 

On a gray and rainy day, Elephant went out walking with his green umbrella. He met a hedgehog who hailed him and said, “‘Excuse me. I believe you have my boat.’” Elephant was perplexed, so Hedgehog expounded on his theory. “‘I crossed deep oceans on my boat and faced the crash of icy waves. I saw dolphins leap two by two and tasted the salty spray of whales. The stars were my guide and my boat a faithful friend.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-hedgehog

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

This poetic travelogue did not convince Elephant of the umbrella’s provenance, but he offered to let Hedgehog ride along and share in its protection. The two came upon a Cat, who took one look at the green umbrella and recognized it as her tent. Hmmm…said Elephant and Hedgehog. It was true replied Cat, and she related how when she visited the woods to study plants and flowers, she would rest in its shade and drink a cup of tea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-bear

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

This story seemed no more plausible than Hedgehog’s, but Elephant invited Cat to ride along and share in the umbrella’s protection. As they continued on, the Bear approached, sure that they had his flying machine. “‘Your what?’ asked the Elephant, the Hedgehog, and the Cat.” The Bear got a faraway look in his eyes as he said, “‘I soared through clouds high up in the air and saw Northern Lights glimmer above rolling hills. I floated on wings free and far from the noise of busy towns below.’”

Well, Elephant could play this game too. The umbrella was his and his alone. When he was a child, Elephant said, the umbrella was his pirate sword, his tightrope balance, and his baseball bat. By this time the rain had stopped. Elephant rolled up his umbrella and said good-bye to the Hedgehog, the Cat, and the Bear. The three couldn’t stand to see their boat/tent/flying machine taken away, so they clung to the Elephant.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-tea-party

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A moment later they met an old Rabbit. “‘I believe you have my cane,’” he said. The others thought he was wrong. But this handy stick, the Rabbit explained, had helped him climb pyramids, hike mountains to ancient ruins, and navigate dark caves full of treasure. Again the Elephant objected, but seeing the old Rabbit mopping his forehead, he opened it and shaded the Rabbit from the sun. The Cat offered to make a pot of tea, and the Bear and the Hedgehog helped lay out a picnic lunch.

Under the cool umbrella, the five “shared their stories, drank tea, planned adventures, and became fast friends.” From then on when it was sunny, they went “Sailing, Camping, Flying, and Hiking” together. “And when it rained they stayed dry under the green umbrella.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-friends

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Jackie Azúa Kramer’s multi-layered story delves into the large points and small nuances of relationships old and new. The Elephant’s green umbrella is both a subject of envy and a uniting object. It also serves to demonstrate Elephant’s ability to stick up for himself as well as his willingness to share. As each animal presents an imaginative and compelling reason why the green umbrella belongs to them, the Elephant rejects the story while accepting the friend. In each animal’s lushly described imagination, Kramer does a beautiful job of showing readers how each of these friends are similar. She reveals that while friends can have different opinions, they can still find common ground.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-followers

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Maral Sassouni’s dream-like illustrations are both exotic and homey. Village houses give way to turreted and domed towers, and the imaginative stories the animals tell are accompanied by details as free, cozy, or eccentric as their tales. The Elephant’s account is cleverly rendered in sepia tones, showing the age of the memories and who the original owner of the coveted umbrella really is. The final images of the five new friends sharing adventures in the green umbrella are sure to delight little ones.

The Green Umbrella is a perfect book to share on rainy days or sunny days. With humor and creativity, the book provides an opportunity to talk about the nature of friendship and sharing with children. It would make an often-read addition to public, classroom, and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

NorthSouth Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0735842182

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer, her books, and a fun book-related activity on her website!

Learn more about Maral Sassouni and her artwork on her website!

Don’t wait for a rainy day to watch The Green Umbrella book trailer!

National Umbrella Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rain-stick-craft

Rain Stick Craft

 

The steady sssshhhhhh of gentle rain is a sound that never fails to relax. With this easy craft, you can create your own rainfall for whenever you need  to de-stress.

Supplies

  • Heavy cardboard tube
  • Aluminum foil
  • Wrapping paper or other paper 
  • Rice or popcorn – 1/3 to 1/2 cup
  • Paint (optional)
  • Paint brushes (optional)
  • Rubber bands – 2

Directions

  1. Paint the cardboard tube, let dry (optional)
  2. Cut the paper into 3-inch or 4-inch squares
  3. Cover one end of the tube with paper and secure with a rubber band
  4. Crumple and twist two or three long pieces of foil 
  5. Put the foil strips into the tube
  6. Add the rice or popcorn to the tube
  7. Cover the open end of the tube with paper and a rubberband
  8. Turn the tube end-to-end and listen to the rain

Picture Book Review

February 3 – It’s Library Lovers Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-cover

About the Holiday

Book lovers love the library! The stacks of books, the reading tables, the stacks of books, the quiet study nooks, and…did I mention the stacks of books? Spending time at the library—whether in story time, perusing the shelves, or reading in a comfortable chair—is a fun way to wile away a morning or afternoon. To celebrate this month, check out the special events at your library, and take an extra moment while checking out your books to thank your librarian!

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Written by Lisa Papp

 

Madeline does not like to read—anything. “Not books. Not magazines. Not even the menu on the ice-cream truck.” Madeline especially doesn’t like to read out loud. At school the teacher tells her to keep trying, but the words often don’t make sense, sentences get stuck in her mouth “like peanut butter,” and other kids laugh when she gets things wrong.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-does-not-like-to-read

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Madeline would love to get a star sticker or even a smiley face for reading, but she only ever gets “Keep Trying” stickers. “Stars are for good readers, Stars are for understanding words, and for reading them out loud.” But Madeline knows that stars are also for making wishes, so she wishes for her very own star. All week Madeline waits for her star, but by Friday she still doesn’t have one.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-wishes

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

On Saturday Madeline’s mother takes her to the library, where Madeline reminds the librarian that she doesn’t like to read. Mrs. Dimple tells her that today they have something she might enjoy. The librarian asks her, “‘Madeline Finn, would you like to read to a dog?’” Madeline looks into the reading room to see kids and all kinds of dogs—big and small—on the reading rug.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-rug

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Mrs. Dimple introduces Madeline to Bonnie and tells her that Bonnie is a very good listener. Madeline thinks “Bonnie is beautiful. Like a big, snowy polar bear.” Madeline chooses a book and begins to read. At first the letters get “mixed up, and the words don’t sound right.” Madeline looks at Bonnie and Bonnie gently looks back at her. She doesn’t giggle like the kids at school, and Madeline feels better. She begins again. When Madeline gets stuck on another word, Bonnie doesn’t mind. She just puts her paws in Madeline’s lap and waits until she figures it out. After that, Madeline and Bonnie “read together every Saturday. It’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes,” Madeline thinks.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-meets-bonnie

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Bonnie teaches Madeline to be patient—even about getting a star sticker. Pretty soon it’s time to read aloud at school again. Madeline goes to the library on Saturday to practice with Bonnie, but neither she nor Mrs. Dimple are there. Back at home, Madeline worries. But her mom tells her that Bonnie was just busy and that she will do fine at school. She suggests, “Just pretend that you’re reading to Bonnie.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-with-bonnie

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

On Monday, Madeline is nervous as she gets up to read. “The first sentence goes pretty well,” but in the next Madeline makes a mistake, and then another. She hears someone giggle. Madeline takes a deep breath and pretends that Bonnie is next to her. Before she knows it, she’s at the bottom of the page. Madeline looks “at her teacher, and she has a big smile on her face.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-in-class

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Holding her star in her hand, Madeline exclaims, “I did it! I got my star!” On Saturday, Madeline shows Mrs. Dimple her star. She’s excited for Madeline then tells her that Bonnie has a surprise for her too. Mrs. Dimple opens the door to the reading room and asks, “Madeline Finn, would you like to read to Bonnie–and her puppies? Yes, please!” Madeline says. “Nice and loud.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-puppies

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is a gentle and uplifting story for all children—whether they are reluctant or avid readers. Lisa Papp’s moving portrayal of a little girl struggling to read, keep up with her classmates, and attain a gold star is filled with honesty and heartfelt emotion. Papp’s pacing is excellent, demonstrating Madeline’s ongoing efforts, and Bonnie’s absence right before reading day allows for Madeline to find within herself the courage and confidence to read in front of her class. Papp’s story is a good reminder that a nonjudgmental environment is best for anyone trying to learn a new skill.

Papp’s soft-hued illustrations beautifully represent her story with realistic portrayals of the kids at school, Madeline’s frustrations at “messing up” words and sentences, and Madeline’s hopeful nature and perseverance to achieve reading success. The calm, quiet tone to Papp’s illustrations echo the acceptance that Bonnie offers to Madeline. Kids will love the sweet reading therapy dogs and are sure to pick out the one they would most enjoy reading to.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is an encouraging story for reluctant or struggling readers at home and a thoughtful addition to classroom libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Peachtree Publishing, 2016 | ISBN 978-1561459100

Discover more about Lisa Papp and her books on her website

Library Lovers Month Activity

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Reading Buddy Bookmark

 

Puppy’s make great reading companions! With this printable Reading Buddy Bookmark you’ll always have a friend to read with!

Picture Book Review