January 15 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Stompin’ at the Savoy

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About the Holiday

I was thrilled to host the cover reveal of Stompin’ at the Savoy and am now excited to be celebrating the book birthday of this extraordinary biography of one of the greats of Jazz with a review, an interview with Moira and Laura, and a giveaway of the book. Enjoy!

Thanks goes to Sleeping Bear Press for sending me a copy of Stompin’ at the Savoy for review consideration. all opinions of the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with them in a giveaway of the book. See details and two ways to enter below.

Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums

Written by Moira Rose Donohue | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

 

As a child William Henry “Chick” Webb turned everything into a drum. “He tapped rhythms on iron railings. Tinkety-tink! He slapped rhythms on marble steps. Thwapety-thwap!” Years later he would be competing in the “biggest band battle of the century” at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. But before that he had to overcome many obstacles. Throughout his life, William suffered with a spinal illness that stunted his growth. After an operation after a fall, the doctor recommended getting him a drum set to strengthen his arms. But drums—even drumsticks—were too expensive, so William used wooden spoons and pots and pans to make music.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2021, text copyright Moira Rose Donohue, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

William’s illness left him with a hunchback and the “kids called him ‘Chicken’—shortened to “Chick”— because of the way he walked. To make money, Chick began selling newspapers when he was nine or ten. Soon he had bought real drumsticks and finally a drum set. Even though Chick only grew to be four feet, one inch that “didn’t stop him from making a giant sound. He just needed a taller chair and a higher bass pedal to do it.”

As a teenager, Chick was hired to play in local bands. He met Duke Ellington. He thought Chick was ready to lead his own band, but Chick waited. In the late 1920s a new kind of music—swing, with its dance-driving beat—came on the scene. “This new music was just right for Chick” and after choosing the best musicians he could find, he began touring the country. On one of these trips he hired Ella Fitzgerald to be the band’s lead singer. By 1937, Chick and his band was playing at the famous Savoy Ballroom. Some even called him the “‘Savoy King.’”

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The Savoy Ballroom was different from most clubs. Here, both Black and White people were welcome to dance. “Working-class people and movie stars danced alongside one another. People jumped and jived to new dances all night long.” At the time, bands competed in live “battles,” which Chick usually won. But then in February 1937, his band lost to Duke Ellington.

Chick didn’t let that get him down. Instead he challenged Benny Goodman—who led the number one big band in the country—to a battle of the bands. Benny laid down some rules: his and Chick’s band would play the same songs, his band would play first, and he would play on the biggest stage at the Savoy. Chick agreed. “That night, four thousand people crowded together on the dance floor” and another five thousand gathered outside in the street. In the crowd were also reporters from music magazines. Before his band went on, Chick laid down just one rule as he talked to his bandmates: “‘I don’t want nobody to miss.’”

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Benny Goodman and his band started off with his smooth, sweet clarinet that set the crowd swaying. But when Chick’s band took the stage, they gave the song a “hotter and faster… Swingier” beat, and the audience bounced along. The music swelled as “back and forth the bands played.” But it may have been “Jam Session” that decided it. As Chick “pounded louder and faster than a speeding train… Benny’s band just shook their heads in disbelief.” Everyone agreed that Chick had won. From that night on, Chick had a new nickname—“the ‘King of Drums.’”

An Authors note telling more about the life of Chick Webb follows the text.

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Thrilling for music-lovers, readers, and dreamers alike, Moira Rose Donohue’s biography of Chick Webb will inspire children to look not at the obstacles they may face but at ways to rise above them to achieve their goals. Donohue’s early focus on Chick’s determination to make music—whether he was using wooden spoons and pots or, much later, real drumsticks and drums—will impress on kids that practice, confidence, and an unfailing vision for the future can move mountains.

An important underlying lesson in Chick’s story is his self-awareness and willingness to wait until he felt ready to find his own niche and create his own band. This example, highlighted in Donohue’s compelling storytelling, will reassure readers who are meticulous, careful, and chafe under a “hurry, hurry” atmosphere. Through Donohue’s lyricism, pacing, and riveting vocabulary, readers can almost hear Chick at his drums as his drumsticks sizzle, whether at home, at venues across the country, or at the Savoy.

Laura Freeman’s rich colors and realistic depictions of Chick Webb—nearly always with drumsticks in his hands—will captivate readers as they watch a little boy with a big talent become the King of Drums. From his childhood kitchen to the school hallway to his natural entertaining spirit while selling newspapers, Freeman shows Chick’s singular focus and the times in which he grew up. Swirled musical bars, floating notes, and shadowed drumsticks give her illustrations movement. The look of rapture on Chick’s face as he plays and images of couples dancing to swing depict how the music transported people from the normal rhythms of life. The final spreads of Chick and Benny Goodman’s battle of the bands are raucous and enthralling and will have kids wanting to hear Chick’s music for themselves.

An absorbing biography of Chick Webb and the era of the big bands as well as a shining example of how one’s belief in oneself can conquer hurdles, Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and library collections.

Stompin’ at the Savoy Book Birthday Activity

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Stompin’ at the Savoy Activity Kit

 

You can enjoy coloring a picture of Chick Webb at his drums and challenging yourself with the word search puzzle found in this printable Activity Guide found on the Sleeping Bear Website.

Stompin’ at the Savoy Activity Kit

Meet Moira Rose Donohue

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Moira Rose Donohue has written over 35 books for children, most of them nonfiction, including National Geographic’s Little Kids First Big Book of the Rain Forest and two Junior Library Guild selections: Great White Sharks (Scholastic/Children’s Press) and The Invasion of Normandy (North Star Editions). She loves tap dancing, opera, hockey, and animals. Moira lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her dog, Petunia.

Among the many titles you’ve published are books on nature, history, and many, many biographies of figures from explorers to sports stars to civil rights leaders. What is your favorite thing about writing biographies? What was the initial spark that prompted you to choose Chick Webb as the subject of your newest book?

The thing I like most about writing biographies is that through the extensive research you have to do, you eventually discover the “essence” of the person—that unique quality that guided him/her/them to act in a way that made a difference in the world.

My initial interest in Chick was sparked when I was watching a re-airing of the Ken Burns documentary on jazz music. When the movie reached the evolution of swing and big bands, Chick Webb was mentioned. I have always loved Big Band music, even though it was not the music of my era. I was familiar with all the big band musicians discussed except Chick Webb. So, of course I had to research him. When I saw his life-loving grin and learned that he had to face the challenges of an affliction that left him no taller than an average eight-year-old boy, I was hooked.

Can you talk a little about the story readers will discover in Stompin’ at the Savoy and take readers on the book’s journey from idea to published book?

This book is not a chronicle of Chick’s life. It focuses on his resilient and competitive spirit because that’s what struck a chord with me. I love contests, and so, apparently, did Chick. To showcase his competitiveness, the climax of the book is his legendary band battle with 6-foot tall Benny Goodman, the King of Swing—a contest so exciting that almost 10,000 people showed up, inside the Savoy and outside on Lenox Avenue. You’ll have to read the book to find out who won!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned about Chick Webb during your research?

As a drummer and a band leader, Chick was precise and demanding. He told his musicians to practice and to be perfect. This didn’t surprise me because my daughter is a percussionist and I know that to be successful, practice and discipline are essential. What did surprise me is that, on occasion, Chick was known to give in to his wilder side and ride around town on the back of a motorcycle, standing up.

Researching Chick Webb was tricky because not much has been written about him. I had to call upon librarians, my superheroes, to watch a documentary at the Library of Congress and to find out what his childhood home looked like (thanks to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore).

For an author it must be thrilling to see your story come to life visually. When did you see the cover and illustrations for your story? What was your first reaction?

I have been a big fan of Laura’s work for some time, so I knew when I got the sketches in May, 2020 that they would be wonderful. But the best part was that she completely understood the Big Band era and captured the ethos of the Savoy perfectly. It turns out that she had a connection to it—her father danced at the Savoy Ballroom.

As for the cover, which I didn’t see until early October, 2020, well…it brought tears to my eyes. The purple background is such a perfect choice for the King of Drums. And Laura even managed to put his signature green chicks on his drum set!

What would you like young readers to take away from the story of Chick Webb?

Although I cannot fully understand the magnitude and complexities of Chick’s struggle, as someone who is only 4 feet 11 inches tall and always trying to figure out how to reach things in high places, I relate to the challenges of being a short person. I completely understood his need to make his bass drum pedal higher so he could reach it! And I admired his perseverance. I hope the young readers will see Chick’s story as an inspiration—a story of someone who believed in himself and his music. Chick was a person with short stature who created a giant sound.  

When will readers be able to find Stompin’ at the Savoy on bookstore shelves? Do you have any special events to planned that readers can look forward to?

Stompin’ at the Savoy will be available for purchase on January 15, 2021. We are holding a virtual book release celebration this Monday, January 18 at 3:30 EST with Tombolo Books bookstore. You can register for the event as well as buy signed copies of the book there. You’ll find more information and the link to register on my website, moirarosedonohue.net. And I am hoping to have an in-person event in Baltimore, Chick’s (and my son’s) home, when it’s safe to do so. 

You can connect with Moira Rose Donohue on

Her website | Twitter

Meet Laura Freeman

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Laura Freeman has illustrated many fine children’s books over the years, including Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe, written by Deborah Blumenthal, and the Coretta Scott King Honor book Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly and Winifred Conkling. Laura now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and their two children. 

I think readers are fascinated by an artist’s process in translating a manuscript to images that explain, highlight, and enhance the text. Can you talk a little about how you approached the manuscript for Stompin’ at the Savoy and then developed your illustrations.

I always spend a lot of time looking at photos and researching the character and time period before starting. For Stompin’ I wanted to get in the mood, and so I searched for his music online and was surprised to find that I recognized the title song (which was written in 1933!). Maybe I watch too many old movies, but it really is great! I found great old photos of him at his drum kit and photos of the Savoy nightclub as well as people dancing and swinging to the orchestra. Since it was the ’30’s, all the photos I found were in black and white so I dug into the internet to find out what color his drum kit was… and I found conflicting information. One article stated that the kit was pearlized cream decorated with sparkly green chicks but the accompanying photo showed the chicks as being red. I ended up trusting the words since the photo was obviously hand tinted. I hope I got it right but guess it’s not the end of the world if I’m wrong! 

What were your thoughts as you began to design the interior images for Stompin’ at the Savoy?

I wanted to give the illustrations a sense of movement to mimic the way Chick’s music makes me feel. There are a lot of colorful musical notes dancing throughout almost all of the pages. There is one spread in particular where if you look closely you can find them in a pattern in the ironwork of the staircase that Chick falls down as a child. Even though he’s not playing music on this page I wanted the notes to foreshadow his future.

What aspects of Chick Webb’s story did you most want to express in your illustrations? Is there a spread in the book that you particularly enjoyed creating?

Even though he had a tragic accident when he was a child that affected him for the rest of his life, his music is so full of joy – I wanted the book to feel joyful! I wanted it to be bright and colorful. There’s one spread in the book that depicts a battle of the bands. The one where Chick’s band goes up against Benny Goodman’s band. It was one of the last images I tackled because I have to admit, I had no idea how I was going to pull it off. There was just so much going on. I wanted to show the excitement and electricity of the moment – both bands playing their instruments, Chick’s band in white tuxedos, Benny Goodman’s band in black, Chick at his drum kit, Gene Krupka breaking his drum head. All this, but I didn’t want it to look busy and confusing. It ended up being one of my favorite images in the book!

I’ve been fortunate to review several of your picture books. In each one the illustrations are uniquely suited for the subject and yet instantly recognizable as your work. What would you say is your signature style? How did you develop it?

Thank you for saying so! I guess I’d say my illustrations are somewhat realistic in that I do try to capture a likeness. But still not so much so that I can’t deviate from reality to make a point. I guess you could say my work has a collage feel to it since I love to play around with patterns and textures too. I think that the amount of research I do shows up in the illustrations. I try to immerse myself in the time period of the book. I love finding the right clothing and hairstyles. What did the streets look like? The cars? What kind of technology was available? What about the furniture? I collect 100’s of photos of all these things. Very few end up in the books, but the essence of what I’ve seen does… I hope!

What do you hope children will take away from your illustrations for Stompin’ at the Savoy?

I hope that they can see themselves in his story. I love that he didn’t let his physical limitations stop him from doing what he wanted to do. He had to sit on a high stool to reach the drums. He couldn’t reach the bass drum pedal on the stool, so he had a special one made. He even embraced what surely started out as a derogatory nickname and called himself Chick.

Like Moira, many of your books for children are biographies. What draws you to those projects? What are the challenges and the rewards of working on biographies?

I especially like learning about people I may never have heard of and learning new things about people I have heard of. If I don’t know the information, chances are that most kids don’t either. With a biography there’s the challenge of capturing a likeness. Sometimes there are lots of photos and videos of the person I’m depicting to reference. Other times, not so much. I may need to distill the person’s facial features and try to figure out what they might look like from a different angle or as a child when there really aren’t any reference photos to go by. I want to do them justice because I feel honored to be involved in uncovering their stories.

You can connect with Laura Freeman on

Her website | Instagram | Twitter

Thanks so much Moira and Laura for these insightful answers! I’m sure readers are as excited to read Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums as I am! While we have to wait a little longer to find the book in bookstores, everyone’s invited to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a copy!

Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums Giveaway

 

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Stompin’ at the Savoy, written by Moira Rose Donohue| illustrated by Laura Freeman 

Here’s how to enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books 
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet OR leave a comment below
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite kind of music for an extra entry (each reply gives you one more entry).

This giveaway is open from January 15 through January 21 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on January 22. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

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You can preorder Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 25 – Christmas Day

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About the Holiday

Christmas is anticipated all year round for the joy of giving, the fun of receiving, and the message of hope the holiday gives. There are as many ways to celebrate as there are families, but today’s book shows that the inspiration of the season can live in every person all year round.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sending me a copy of I Got the Christmas Spirit for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

I Got the Christmas Spirit

Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison | Illustrated by Frank Morrison

 

A little girl wakes up with a smile on her face and “the spirit of the season” in her heart. As she and her mother head out into the snowy city, she hears “the spirit in the air” as carolers sing and a corner Santa rings a bell. She’s been saving her money to add to the familiar red pot and happily drops it in the slot. The choir is now singing “Deck the Halls,” and the little girl sings along with all her heart.

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Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then it’s time for a yummy roasted treat to warm her up in the shivery air. On the ice-skating rink, the girl and her mom “swirled and twirled around the spirit” with other kids and adults enjoying some frozen fun. Afterward, a tour of the store windows decorated with lights and glitter makes her feel sparkly inside. But when they come upon a mother and her two children huddled against the wind with a “Help Please” sign, the girl says, “I felt the spirit deep down in my soul.”

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Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

In a crowded store nearby, the little girl looks wide-eyed at all the toys then whispers to a tired Santa her wish “for the spirit everywhere.” As she, her mom, Santa, and a host of other people leave the store carrying wrapped packages, they feel the spirit spread by the girl’s smile. Outside, the little girl and the other shoppers give the presents to the needy family. The little boy grins from ear to ear as his mom stands by happily and the baby rests in Santa’s arms.

The Christmas spirit is not just a thing or a place or a person, the girl understands, “The spirit is you!” Then the girl gets her own surprise when she spies her dad coming home. She runs to him and he lifts her into a hug. Here is what she wants for Christmas—“Peace for all, good tidings, and cheer—let’s live the spirit every day of the year.”

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Image copyright Frank Morrison, 2018, text copyright Connie Schofield-Morrison, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As the sights and sounds of Christmas begin to light up towns, stores, and homes, Connie Schofield-Morrison’s story fills young readers with the joy and deeper meaning of the holiday. Little ones wanting to share their bubbly excitement for Christmas as well as their innate empathy will fall in love with the little girl who eagerly joins in on all of the city’s festivities while also embracing those in need. Her big heart and buoyant spirit will inspire kids to find the spirit of the holiday in everything they do too. Kids are invited to join in reading with exuberant alliterative words like “Ding Dong Ding, that call out to the little girl

Readers can almost hear the bells and singers, feel the soft snow, and smell the roasting nuts as he takes readers on a tour of the city decked out for the holidays. In his gorgeous, realistic paintings, the emotions and actions of the little girl cheer young readers as they see her belting out a Christmas carol, gliding on ice rink, and walking side-by-side with Santa to deliver her surprise gifts to the needy family. Images of the girl dropping money that she has saved into the Salvation Army pot and frowning sadly as she comes upon the destitute woman and her family mirror the compassion many children feel for those less fortunate.

Like its predecessor I Got the Rhythm, I Got the Christmas Spirit is an uplifting and beautiful book to add to any child’s collection—not only at Christmas, but any time of the year. A top choice for public libraries too.

Ages 3 – 7

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681195285

To learn more about Frank Morrison and view a gallery of his art, visit his website.

Christmas Day Activity

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Santa’s Sack Maze

 

Santa has one more present to put into his sack. Can you help him take the gift through the maze in this printable puzzle?

Santa’s Sack Full of Presents Puzzle | Santa’s Sack Full of Presents Solution

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You can find I Got the Christmas Spirit at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 19 – Look for an Evergreen Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday gives people an opportunity to learn about and appreciate the variety of evergreen trees that grow locally and around the world. During the winter these giants stand out against snowy landscapes with their deep-green needles that retain their color all year around and always offer the hope of spring. For those who celebrate Christmas, the evergreen is a highlight of the celebration. Decorated with lights and sparkly ornaments, the tree is where family and friends gather to exchange gifts and share time together. Look for an Evergreen Day was created by the National Arborist Association to encourage people to enjoy the beauty of these special trees.

Pick a Pine Tree

Written by Patricia Toht | Illustrated by Jarvis

 

A family of four and their dog head out to “pick a pine tree / from the lot,” but what kind do they want—“slim and tall or short and squat?” After looking them all over, they choose a nice big one and tie it to the roof of their car for the trip home. At home they clear a place for the tree to stand, give it a drink, and then “find the trimmings / stored within / bulging boxes, rusty tins, / paper bags, a wooden case. / Bring them to that / special place, / there, beside your tree.”

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Image copyright Jarvis, 2017, text copyright Patricia Toht, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But they don’t start decorating yet. They call their friends to come and help. With the house full of cheer, the kids string the lights, wrapping them around the branches. Next come the ornaments—“Jolly Santas, / Dancing elves. / Wooden reindeer. / Jingle bells. / Lacy snowflakes. / Paper dolls. / Candy canes and / bright glass balls.” With hooks and string the bright ornaments are hung on the tree.

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Image copyright Jarvis, 2017, text copyright Patricia Toht, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Finally, garlands are “strung / from bough to bough,” and tinsel is draped in “silver drips.” On the top a star shines bright and down below a tiny village springs up, complete with “a train that chugs around a track.” At last it’s finished and the lights are lit. “Look! It’s not a pine tree / anymore. / It’s a… / Christmas tree!” As everyone gathers to singing around the Christmas tree, Merry wishes are bestowed on “one and all.”

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Image copyright Jarvis, 2017, text copyright Patricia Toht, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Patricia Toht’s lively rhymes engage kids in one of the holiday season’s most fun activities—picking out and decorating the Christmas tree. Her step-by-step verses brim with the growing excitement of the day and encourage sharing the celebration with family and friends. As they read, kids will be caught up in the fun and memories of this favorite tradition.

Vivid, action-packed mixed-media illustrations in a rich color palette by Jarvis take readers to the Christmas tree lot with its rows and rows of different trees to choose from and back to the family’s cozy home—where a dog and cat are happy to help out. As friends and neighbors drop by for the decorating party, kids will love recounting their own experiences hanging the lights and pointing out ornaments that may look like their own. The fully decorated tree glows in a two-page vertical spread that will wow little readers.

A sweet family story full of smiles, eager anticipation, and a love of Christmas, Pick a Pine Tree is a magical read to add to holiday story times.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763695712

Discover more about Patricia Toht and her books on her website.

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

Look for an Evergreen Day Activity

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Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze

 

Can you help the kids sled their way to find the evergreen tree in this printable maze?

Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze | Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze Solution

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You can find Pick a Pine Tree at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 16 – It’s Time for the Christmas Bird Count

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About the Holiday

Concerned with declining bird populations, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman suggested a new holiday tradition—a Christmas Bird Census that would count birds instead of hunting them. The first census took place on December 25, 1900. On that day, twenty-seven birders, centered mostly in northeastern North America, counted 90 species of birds. The tradition has grown tremendously from those humble beginnings. Today, tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave all types of weather to conduct the count, which helps conservationists and scientific organizations create strategies for protecting the health and habitats of bird populations. The Christmas Bird Count is now held from December 14 through January 5. To learn more or to get involved yourself, visit the Audubon website.

The Atlas of Amazing Birds

By Matt Sewell

If you have a budding ornithologist in the family, they will be awed by Matt Sewell’s gorgeous compendium of more than 150 birds from around the world. Organized by continent—Europe, North and Central America, South America, Antarctica, Oceana, Asia, and Africa—each chapter begins with a green watercolor map of the area delineated into the countries within its borders and includes a short introduction to the size, climate, surrounding oceans, and number of birds found there.

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The first stop on this ornithological tour is Europe, where readers discover first the European roller, a lovely species with a cyan body and rust-and-blue-mottled wings that summers in Southern Europe and the Middle East and winters in Africa. This bird’s beauty belies the less-than-attractive way they have for protecting themselves as chicks in which “they can vomit a foul-smelling liquid over themselves to keep predators at bay.”

The European golden-plover chick—a little fluff of green and white that blends in with its mossy surroundings—takes a different tack: By looking like “a small clump of cotton balls flecked with gold leaf, it is possibly one of the cutest chicks out there.” With its speedy wingbeats, the European golden-plover also claims another mark of distinction as the “genesis for the idea for the book of Guinness World Records.”

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

North America and Central America are home to more than 900 species of birds. Many are as colorful as a child’s painting, including the Montezuma oropendola, painted bunting, indigo bunting, and the resplendent quetzal, which boasts an iridescent blue tail that can reach over 2 feet long. Unique among birds is the common poorwill, a North American nightjar, which besides being nocturnal, “is possibly the only bird that hibernates.” Mottled gray and brown, the common poorwill perfectly blends into rocky crevices. “It has a low odor so it cannot be detected by predators, and it can descend into a sleepy torpor for months.”

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

South America, with its vast expanse of land and variety of climates hosts “more than 3,400 known species of birds, more than any other continent.” With that many different types of birds, South America offers ornithologists a full range of species to study from familiar faces, such as the hyacinth macaw and the keel-billed toucan, to truly wondrous creatures, such as these: the sunbittern, which upon opening its wings presents a frightening “mask” of markings to scare away predators; the white bellbird, which has a single wattle above its beak that can be inflated to appear much like a unicorn’s horn; and the oilbird, which you cannot be faulted for mistaking for a bat as it “breeds and roosts in the totally dark interiors of caves,” uses echolocation to navigate here, and flies at night. Among the other weird and distinctive birds of this region is the hoatzin, “known as the reptile bird” because it “dates back 64 million years, which is roughly when all the big land-based dinosaurs disappeared.”

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Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Oceania, comprising Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, and New Zealand, provides shelter to “some of the most brilliant and flamboyant birds in the world….” These include a variety of birds-of-paradise, each of which sport colorful and intricate features that would look just as at home on ornaments and party favors. One of the most unusual birds may be the multi-talented superb lyrebird. Not only does the male possess fabulous peacock-like tail feathers that seem part quill-pen, part feather duster, it is a master mimic. “It can imitate just about any other bird it hears, as well as other sounds, such as chainsaws, telephones, barking dingoes, roaring cars, and crying babies—often repeated one after the next.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-birds-of-paradise

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Combined, Antarctica, Asia, and Africa also give homes to more than 6,000 species of some of the most adorable, beloved, brilliant, and extraordinary birds in the world. Readers will meet penguins and birds with vibrant blocks of color as sculpted as any stained-glass window—such as the Malabar trogon of India and Sri Lanka, the Himalayan monal, and Ruspoli’s turaco of southern Ethiopia.

They’ll also get to know towering birds, such as the secretarybird and the ostrich, and formidable-looking creatures, such as the marabou stork and the shoebill. To tie up this description that barely scratches the surface of all that bird-lovers will learn, I present the common tailorbird of tropical Asia—a clever and industrious little warbler that sews leaves together to create a cup of a nest that it lines with cobwebs to further confound predators.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-condor

Copyright Matt Sewell, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Matt Sewell knows just how to entice young readers with engaging, humorous, and insightful text that provides a robust and individual introduction to each bird as well as their status in the world. Every entry is accompanied by brilliant watercolors that highlight each species’ spectacular, surprising, and sometimes even seemingly Dr. Seussian plumage. Dipping in and out of the pages will inspire children and adults to learn more about birds, geography, and how they can become stewards for our feathered friends.

The Atlas of Amazing Birds is highly recommended for bird and nature lovers and would make an excellent addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 10

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616898571

To learn more about Matt Sewell, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Christmas Bird Count Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-beautiful-birds-word-search

Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle

It’s fun to watch for different kinds of birds when you take a walk or in your own backyard. Can you find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Beautiful Birds Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-atlas-of-amazing-birds-cover

You can find The Atlas of Amazing Birds at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | Indiebound

Picture Book Review

December 15 – International Tea Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2005 in New Deli, India, International Tea Day was created to raise awareness within the governments of tea-growing countries of the rights of tea workers, their conditions, and their economic contributions. Today, the holiday is commemorated widely in tea-growing nations. Some of the issues the day focuses on include wages, medical care, and education for women tea workers, who make up fifty percent of of the workforce on tea plantations. Following water, tea is the most widely drunk beverage in the world. To celebrate today, enjoy a cuppa with a cookie, a scone, or another favorite treat. 

Teatime Around the World

Written by Denyse Waissbluth | Illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne

 

Two women sit at a table with steaming cups of tea in front of them, talking. “Tea for one. Tea for two.” To the side sits a teapot, its contents still warm. At their feet a child is having a tea party with a bear, jauntily clad in a feathered hat. Cookies, strawberries, and croissants fill out this feast served from a special tea set. “Tea for me. Tea for you.” Tea time continues in Morocco, where a father and child kneel on pillows. The father pours out three cups of mint tea. Made with green tea, mint, and sugar, each cup of tea will have “a slightly different taste.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-teatime-around-the-world-sugar

Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

In India a street vendor sells a cup of masala chai to a woman, who’s looking for a peaceful break during her day. The “strong tea and spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and pepper…boiled with milk and sweetened” will hit the spot. Hot tea is relaxing, but on a hot day there’s nothing more refreshing than a glass of iced tea. In Thailand, locals and tourists enjoy cha yen, sold from street vendors’ carts. This “strongly brewed sweet tea is poured over ice and drunk from a bag through a straw. Indigenous people in North America soothe fevers, colds, sore muscles, and even sleepless nights with tea made from “berries, plants, and roots.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-teatime-around-the-world-russia

Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

Special tea times—like chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony during which matcha, a powdered green tea is served, and afternoon tea, enjoyed with trays of treats world wide—bring people together for comforting respites. You’ll be interested to discover the origins of afternoon tea too! Tea can be served quietly or dramatically, like “teh tarik, or pulled tea…the national drink of Malaysia,” is “poured from up high, or ‘pulled’ between two mugs, to make it frothy.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-teatime-around-the-world-poured

Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

Tea is as old as its discovery thousands of years ago in China and as new as bubble tea, created in Taiwan in the 1980s. In Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, yerba maté tea is served in hollowed-out gourds with a “special straw called a bombilla,” while in Jamaica sorrel, made from roselle hibiscus buds, “spiced with ginger, cloves, and sugar,” is perfect for any festive occasion. No matter where you live, what flavors of tea you enjoy, or how you serve it, you can always count on “tea for one. / Tea for two. / Loved by all / the whole world through.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-teatime-around-the-world-for-group

Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

With a lilting poem that flows from page to page, Denyse Waissbluth introduces unique flavors, special brew methods, and the comforting feeling a cup of hot or iced tea infuses into a day. The shared experience of tea drinking provides a fascinating touchstone for Waissbluth’s travelogue that takes kids around the world to experience the rituals, recipes, and traditions from each country that makes their tea unique. Waissbluth’s conversational style will appeal to kids looking to learn how global cultures are similar to and different from their own.

Chelsea O’Byrne’s lovely matte illustrations take children to cities, the countryside, and the seaside around the globe, revealing not only diverse scenes of how tea is made, served, and enjoyed, but homes, food, and clothing as well. Children will be excited to see such homey and intimate portraits of their peers around the world.

Sure to spur readers to learn more about the countries featured and entice them to try their signature teas, Teatime Around the World would enhance geography, history, and multicultural lessons for school and homeschooling and is highly recommended for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Greystone Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1771646017

You can connect with Denyse Waissbluth on Instagram.

To learn more about Chelsea O’Byrne, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Tea Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tea-word-search-puzzle

Tea for You! Word Search

 

Can you find the names of eighteen delicious teas from around the world in this printable puzzle?

Tea for You! Word Search Puzzle | Tea for You! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-teatime-around-the-world-cover

You can find Teatime Around the World at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 12 – Get Ready for Christmas

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-cover

About the Holiday

It just isn’t Christmas without reading favorite traditional stories. Familiar characters, heartfelt themes, and feelings of warmth and excitement are tucked inside the pages just waiting to be released again after a long year. Today’s book allows you to share one of the oldest and most beloved Christmas classics with the youngest members of your family.

Thanks to Familius for sending me a copy of A Christmas Carol: Lit for Little Hands for review consideration. all opinions of the book are my own. This post contains an affiliate link.

A Christmas Carol: Lit for Little Hands

Adapted by Brooke Jorden | Illustrated by David Miles

 

One of the world’s most recognizable novels, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has thrilled readers ever since it was published on December 19, 1843. The novel’s combination of spooky ghosts, a loving family, and a lost soul in need of redemption keeps readers and listeners enthralled no matter how many times they’ve read it. But why should adults and older kids have all the fun? Now, with this Lit for Little Hands board book, even the youngest readers can enjoy all the intrigue of A Christmas Carol.

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Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Brooke Jorden, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Brooke Jorden’s nimble adaptation loses none of the snap of the original. Turn to the first page and there is Bob Cratchit toiling away under the gaze of a stern Ebenezer Scrooge who “was the meanest miser the world had ever known.” The counting house is as cold as Scrooge’s hatred of Christmas. On a pull-out tab kids even see him send away a little boy who’s come caroling. That night at home “a terrible clanking noise” interrupts Scrooge’s meager meal. What we know—but little ones might not—is what lurks on the other side of Scrooge’s door. With the pull of a tab, kids slide open the door to reveal the ghostly figure of Jacob Marley “surrounded by a heavy iron chain: punishment for all the cruel things Marley had done while he was alive.” He tells Scrooge he’s in for the same unless he changes his ways and tells him to expect three more ghosts.

Another turn of the page brings the Ghost of Christmas past. When kids pull the tab, the ghost and Scrooge fly from the window into the night sky and to the boarding school where Scrooge spent lonely Christmas’s alone. It makes Scrooge think of the boy who’d come caroling and sorry that he hadn’t given him a bit of money. As you may remember, the Ghost of Christmas Past also takes Scrooge to a party given by his former boss Mr. Fezziwig. Kids can spin a wheel and set old Scrooge dancing round and round with his younger self and his former colleagues and friends. “Scrooge remembered the joy he used to feel around Christmas, surrounded by friends and a kind employer.” He realizes that when money became the most important thing to him, he became sad and friendless.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-christmas-past

Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Brooke Jorden, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

When the clock strikes two, the Ghost of Christmas Present appears in the midst of an enormous feast, Nearby a fire quivers and crackles as kids spin the wheel. The ghost transports Scrooge to the window of Bob Cratchit’s house, where he sees the large family having dinner. With a toggle, readers can set Tiny Tim’s famous cheery toast in motion as Scrooge “marveled that the Cratchit family has so little and yet were so happy.”

Scrooge didn’t have long to wait until the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come visited. In a cemetery, Scrooge saw Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit crying at Tiny Tim’s gravestone. The sight broke his heart, but then the ghost pointed Scrooge to another stone. Who’s is it? Children pull a tab that reveals the engraved name: Ebenezzer Scrooge. When he woke up the next morning, “Scrooge knew he must change.” He went out into town spreading Christmas cheer and “became as good a man as the world had ever known.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-christmas-present

Image copyright David Miles, 2019, text copyright Brooke Jorden, 2019. Courtesy of Familius.

Quotations from Dickens’ original novel are sprinkled throughout the text, giving it the Old-World atmosphere that contributes so much to the effect of the story. With each visit of a ghost, Brooke Jorden includes a lesson that Scrooge learns or a memory he has of a recent time when he could have been generous or happy and chose not to, allowing young readers to understand how the ghosts affect Scrooge and how he changes in that night. Jorden chooses evocative language that kids will enjoy hearing and learning. Jorden’s board book version of A Christmas Carol demonstrates anew the genius of Charles Dickens in this story that touches all ages and is ever timely.

Using fresh tones of red and green, David Miles brings 1800’s England to life for kids. Bob Cratchit scratches away in his ledger with a quill pen and only a candle for light as thick snow falls outside the window. At home, Scrooge sits in a darkened room where the eerie, translucent ghost of Jacob Marley, wrapped in a chain, is sure to impress. Miles’ image of the feast surrounding the Ghost of Christmas Present contrasts sharply with the small turkey and plum pudding on the Cratchit’s table, a detail that will resonate with today’s children just as it did when the novel was first published. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is appropriately spooky, but not too frightening for young children. When Scrooge wakes up a changed man, the dark shades of Miles’ pages give way to bright pinks and cheery aqua, and the icy blizzard has ended.

Terrific fun and a fabulous way to share this classic with kids (adults will get a kick out of it too), Lit for Little Hands: A Christmas Carol would be a quick favorite on home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701518

You can find more books from Familius that joyfully reflect the habits of happy families, including reading, talking, laughing, eating, working, loving, healing, learning, and playing together as well as the Familius blog The Habit Hub here.

Get Ready for Christmas Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-snowflake-matching-puzzle

It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

 

If you’re wishing for a white Christmas, you’ll enjoy finding the pairs of identical snowflakes in this printable puzzle.

It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-christmas-carol-lit-for-little-hands-cover

You can purchase Lit for Little Hands: A Christmas Carol at Familius

Picture Book Review

 

December 10 – National Dewey Decimal System Day

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About the Holiday

Today, library lovers and readers of all kinds honor Melvil Dewey who was born on this date in 1851 and at the age of twenty-one revolutionized the way libraries organized their collections with an elegant numerical system that gave each book their own place on the shelf. Dewey went on to make more changes within libraries from whom they served to who ran them even to the amount of noise that was allowed inside—Shhh! To celebrate today, show your local librarians and library staff how much you appreciate them by sending them a thank you email or leaving an encouraging comment on their social media. To learn more about Melvil Dewey, kids will also want to check out today’s book.

The Efficient, Inventive (Often Annoying) Melvil Dewey

Written by Alexis O’Neill | Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

 

Melvil Dewey is one organized kid! He spends his free time labeling his mother’s pantry and then the basement. He records all of his pertinent personal information and balances his finances in a ledger. And when he has enough money he heads to the bookstore—on foot—ten miles away. “Melvil loves books.” What do you imagine he buys there? If you guessed Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language—unabridged version—you’re right!

At night before going to sleep, Melvil wonders what he’ll do with his life. He wants to do something valuable, something meaningful. But what? A fire at Hungerford Collegiate Institute in Adams, New York, where Melvil goes to school, gives him a new perspective. While rescuing books, smoke inhalation causes damage to his lungs. The doctors say he won’t live a year, but he proves them wrong. Now, however, he wants to word “efficiently. He wants to make the biggest difference in the world in the least amount of time.”

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Image copyright Edwin Fotheringham, 2020, text copyright Alexis O’Neill, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Noticing the large number of immigrants entering the country, Melvil decides he want to help them learn English and get an education as quickly as possible. Books would do that. After all, Melvil believes that steam power and electricity pale in importance to reading. First, though, Melvil needs to go to college. He chooses Amherst College and spends copious amounts of time at the library. “He even gets a job there.” But he notices that the library is woefully underused. Melvil can understand it. Instead of grouped by subject, the books—all 30,000 of them—are organized by shelf number, which requires frequent rearranging as new books are added.

Melvil loved libraries, but only rich institutions and wealthy people could afford to have them. Melvile believes in free public libraries for everyone. But as Melvil studies the problems of libraries, he discovers that no two libraries organize their books the same way. And some don’t even seem to bother with orgnainzation—they just stack the “books from floor to ceiling.” In addition to books and libraries, Melvil loves decimals. He ponders and muses, and then, suddenly, he has it! “He gets the idea of using numbers and decimals to organize library books.”

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Image copyright Edwin Fotheringham, 2020, text copyright Alexis O’Neill, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

After extensive research, “Melvil assigns numbers to ten broad classes of knowledge. He divides these into divisions and the divisions into sections and subclasses. When displayed on the spine of the books and the books neatly tucked away on shelves, finding what you want becomes “totally efficient!” The trustees at Columbia College in New York invite Melvil to become their head librarian. Once installed, Melvil begins to think bigger. He wants to open a whole school dedicated to training librarians, and… he thinks women would be perfect for this profession. Their qualifications in his eyes? “…clear heads, strong hands, and great hearts. (Also, they will work for less money than men.)” But Columbia College’s trustees are aghast. Women are not welcome on their campus. Melvil is not to be dissuaded.

He secretly opens his school in a storeroom across the street from Columbia with twenty students, seventeen of which are women. He rushes through his lessons for best efficiency, then back at his job tinkers with the rules of the library. He instates a strict quiet policy—even going to far as to put rubber tips on chair and table legs and rubber wheels on book carts. Librarians and staff are given slippers to wear. And, of course, there is NO talking.

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Image copyright Edwin Fotheringham, 2020, text copyright Alexis O’Neill, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Melvil’s flood of ideas, constant changes, and insistent personality upsets people, but he barrels on. He becomes the State Librarian for New York, “organizes the New York State Library Association… provides books for the blind…and launches a traveling library system.” He even helps establish the Children’s Library Association, among other work. People were still divided in their opinions of Melvil, but one thing they all could agree on was that he fulfilled the wishes he had as a boy to “make a difference in the world.”

Extensive back matter includes an Author’s Note with an honest assessment of his successes and faults that in itself can prompt discussions of the legacy people leave behind, a timeline of his life, a discussion on other reforms he championed, a quick overview of how Dewey’s classification system works, and a list of selected sources.

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Image copyright Edwin Fotheringham, 2020, text copyright Alexis O’Neill, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

No fusty, dusty story of the Dewey Decimal System this! Alexis O’Neill’s present-tense storytelling sweeps readers up in a whirlwind of the ideas, dreams, quirks, and persuasive, even steamrolling personality of Melvil Dewey. (And if you wonder about that unusual spelling, the answer is here too.)  Her wry delivery masterfully straddles the divide between the numerous contributions he made to the library system and the anger his convictions and obsessions often caused. She invites kids into Dewey’s mind and actions as ideas spark, flame, and fuel innovation. The details O’Neill includes about the times, the pre-Dewey system of library organization, and Dewey’s hand in expanding the reach of libraries as well as his often abrasive personality gives adults and children plenty to unpack, discuss, and research.

Edwin Fotheringham matches O’Neill’s robust storytelling with action-packed illustrations that seem to sprint across the pages as quickly as notions raced through Melvil Dewey’s mind. Striking images—such as a speeding train hurtling into a tunnel made from an overturned book and later smashing through a mountain of books; the moment when Dewey is struck with the decimal-system answer to his problem; and a class lecture given at 180 words per minute—reveal the whirlwind pace of Dewey’s life. A two-page spread in which two profiles of Dewey—one smiling and one scowling—meet in the middle demonstrate the dual nature of this complex man and the contrasting reactions to his beliefs. Fotheringham brings the shotgun quality of Dewey’s thoughts to life with bold, emphatic typography that highlights concepts important to him while hinting at the conviction he had in his own ideas and solutions. 

The Efficient, Inventive (Often Annoying) Melvil Dewey is a compelling biography which can be read to inform children of all ages about a man who wished to make an impact on the world and succeeded in ways that nearly all people recognize. The book can also be used to stimulate important discussions about difficult and current issues with older children when used with the back matter and further research. The book will be fascinating and eye-opening for library lovers unfamiliar with the early history of libraries. It well deserves a place on school and public library shelves.

Ages 7 – 10 and up

Calkins Creek, 2020 | ISBN 978-1684371983

Discover more about Alexis O’Neill and her books on her website.

To learn more about Edwin Fotheringham, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Dewey Decimal System Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-book-love-word-search-puzzle

Book Love! Word Search

 

There are all kinds of books for every reader. Find your favorite along with twenty favorite genres in this printable puzzle.

Book Love! Word Search Puzzle | Book Love! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-melvil-dewey-cover

You can find he Efficient, Inventive (Often Annoying) Melvil Dewey at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review