October 11 – Myths and Legends Day

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About the Holiday

Myths and legends have been part of human history since the beginning of time. Created to explain natural phenomena, to entertain, or to inspire, myths have been passed down from every culture and now reside in our collective consciousness. Today’s holiday celebrates these stories and their long history. To take part, read about your favorite legends or discover new ones. Today’s book is a great place to start!

T is for Thor: A Norse Mythology Alphabet

Written by Virginia Loh-Hagan | Illustrated by Torstein Nordstrand

 

From stories to poetry, movies to art to video games, Norse mythology captures the imaginations of kids and adults. Knowing Norse legends, the world, the characters, and the conflicts is not only exciting, but can inform and deepen your understanding of allusions found throughout literature and other arts. In T is for Thor the twenty-six letters of the alphabet serve as a portal to this mystical world and its inhabitants. From Asgard—“filled with fields of green and castles of gold, / Asgard was home to the strong and the bold.”—to Zest—“Two humans named Life and Life’s Zest / hid in the world tree, safe from the rest.”—readers gain and in-depth knowledge of and appreciation for the beings, gods, giants, creatures, humans, landmarks, weapons, and events that make up these fascinating tales.

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Image copyright Torstein Nordstrand, 2020, text copyright Virginia Loh-Hagan, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Here, children and adults learn how and why Odin created dwarfs and about their magical crafts, including a “sword named Tyrfing” that could “fight by itself and its aim was always accurate” and a gold ring which produced eight more rings every ninth day, “making its owner very rich.” The secret to the Norse gods’ and goddesses’ immortality did not lie in themselves but in Idunn’s apples. You can read about her harrowing kidnapping, the aging of the gods and goddesses, and how Loki rescued her at I.

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Image copyright Torstein Nordstrand, 2020, text copyright Virginia Loh-Hagan, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

M is for Mistletoe, and readers may be surprised to find that in Loki’s hand this “kissing” plant had much dire consequences for Balder, the god of light and sunshine, and the world. At N are the Norns—three Nordic seers who practiced sorcery. In addition to caring for Yggdrasil—the world tree—the Norns “weaved people’s fates into a web. Each person’s life was a string in their loom and the length of the string was the length of a person’s life.”

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Image copyright Torstein Nordstrand, 2020, text copyright Virginia Loh-Hagan, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ragnarok is found at R, where readers learn how Balder’s death set the long-foretold war between gods and giants in motion. At S children discover the role the fire giant Surtr played in the battle, and at T they can read about Thor, who “of all the Norse gods, …is the most known; / nothing can stop him once his hammer is thrown.” Kids learn more about the end battle and the rebirth of the world as the alphabet plays out.

T is for Thor opens with an extensive glossary and pronunciation guide, which will help readers smoothly navigate the text. Back matter includes connections Norse mythology has to the names of our days, Christmas traditions, outer space, and even football. A note from the author explains how Norse mythology grew out of a desire to explain scientific phenomena, inspire the Vikings, and the role of oral storytelling in how these myths became known.

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Image copyright Torstein Nordstrand, 2020, text copyright Virginia Loh-Hagan, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The intricate relationships and interwoven storylines of Norse mythology are clearly explained and connected in Virginia Loh-Hagan’s detailed paragraphs that are just the right length to spark an ongoing interest in these legends for kids and adults, who may not be familiar with the stories. Her rhyming verses that accompany each letter succinctly define each letter’s keyword and are engaging introductions to the longer text. Loh-Hagan’s conversational and riveting storytelling will keep. Kids enthralled from A to Z.

Torstein Nordstrand’s majestic paintings of mystical worlds and golden halls, powerful gods and goddesses, and imposing giants are each showstoppers that will mesmerize readers. Mist and fire provide backdrops to the dramatic scenes where the lives of these mythical beings clashed with swords and spears or turned on a whim or through trickery. Ethereal and gripping, each illustration holds intriguing details readers won’t want to miss.

T is for Thor would be a superb book for any fan of mythology and a valuable resource for English and literature classes for all ages. The book is a must for school and public libraries and would be a favorite on home bookshelves to dip into again and again.

Ages 7 – 10 and up

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110502

To view a portfolio of work by Torstein Nordstrand visit his website.

Myths and Legends Day Activity

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Norse Mythology Word Search Puzzle

 

Can you find the twenty-one words associated with Norse mythology in this printable puzzle?

Norse Mythology Word Search Puzzle | Norse Mythology Word Search Solution

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You can find T is for Thor: A Norse Mythology Alphabet at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 7 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future. From business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment, Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the holiday was expanded to a month in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. learn more about the holiday, find resources for classrooms and homeschooling, videos, and more to use not only this month but throughout the year, visit the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Ańo Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Albert Whitman & Company in a giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela, written by Alexandra Alessandri | illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks 
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Reply with a holiday tradition for extra entry. Each response gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from October 7 through October 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 14.

Prizing provided by Albert Whitman

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-are-all-family-word-search

We Are All Family English/Spanish Word Search

 

Find the names of family members in both English and Spanish in this printable heart- shaped word search puzzle.

We Are All Family Word Search PuzzleWe Are All Family Word Search Solution!

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You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 1 – International Music Day and Interview with Author Gary Golio

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About the Holiday

International Music Day was established in 1975 by Lord Yehudi Menuhin, an American-born violinist and conductor  – widely considered to be one of the great violinists of the 20th century – to promote the art of music across all segments of society and to apply the UNESCO ideals of peace and friendship among all people, with an exchange of experiences and mutual appreciation of all cultures and their aesthetic values. To celebrate today’s holiday, listen to your favorite music and take some time to discover a new style – it might just become a favorite too!

Dark Was the Night: Blind Willie Johnson’s Journey to the Stars

Written by Gary Golio | Illustrated by E.B. Lewis

 

As readers open the cover to Dark Was the Night, they discover a date: 1977. In this year Voyager I was shot into space carrying “a precious Golden Record, a message to the Universe from Planet Earth.” The record contained pictures of the people and things that make up our life, sounds we hear every day, music from Navajo chants and West African drumming to Beethoven and Chuck Berry. There was also one “ghostly song, about loneliness and the night….a tune of light and hope” from a blind man named Willie Johnson.

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Image copyright E.B. Lewis, 2020, text copyright Gary Golio, 2020. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

Who was Willie Johnson? In 1897, he was a newborn baby in a small Texas town wrapped in his mother’s love. narrator picks up the thread of Willie’s story when he’s become a small boy who “loved to sing” and play the cigar box guitar his father made him. But that joy was interrupted when “your mama died, and some light went out of your life.” Then at seven or eight, Willie became blind, “and that’s when things got darker still.” But Willie rose above these hurdles. His blindness didn’t keep him “from singing in church, or on street corners.” Using his voice to uplift people brought him “back in the light.”

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Image copyright E.B. Lewis, 2020, text copyright Gary Golio, 2020. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

He sang blues and learned how to play a slide by running the edge of a pocketknife along the steel strings of his guitar. “This made a sound like someone laughing or crying, as if the guitar had a voice of its own.” He traveled from town to town in Texas, wherever farmers came to socialize and shop, setting up on street corners and collecting the coins people tossed into his tin cup. Little by little, people grew to know his name. “Then a man from a music company heard you sing. You were given the chance to make a record….”

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Image copyright E.B. Lewis, 2020, text copyright Gary Golio, 2020. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

On that record listeners heard “the sound of one human being reaching out to all the others, telling them not to be afraid of the dark.” That first record was a hit, lauded for its unique sound. One song in particular, “Dark Was the Night,” “touched people deep in their souls” and made Willie “a shining star.” The light Willie brought to people has never dimmed; in fact it continues to shine through the darkness on Earth and through Space.

Back matter includes a discussion on what is known about Blind Willie Johnson and what still remains a mystery as well more information about Voyager I and why Johnson’s song Dark Was the Night was chosen for inclusion on the Golden Record. A link to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory website, where readers can access Voyager I—The Golden Record is also included.

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Image copyright E.B. Lewis, 2020, text copyright Gary Golio, 2020. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

Gary Golio’s ethereal tale of the life of Blind Willie Johnson and his song, which has touched and continues to move so many people, is a stirring tribute to a unique artist and the power of music to change lives. Golio’s use of the second person creates a poignant personal bond between the story and reader, which allows children to put themselves in Willie’s shoes and believe that they, too, can inspire others with their talent and life. Golio’s lyrical storytelling flows with the cadence of the blues, and his evocative vocabulary brings Willie Johnson’s voice and times fully to life for young readers.

E.B. Lewis transports readers to early 1900s Texas in his stunning watercolor paintings rendered in soft washes of grays, blues, and greens punctuated with yellows that reflect the hope and light that spurred Willie on and flowed from his music. As his mother holds him in her arms as a baby, the landscape outside the window blazes with gold that reflects on Willie’s and his mother’s face. As children learn about Willie’s blindness, the page turns dark, except for a swatch of light across Willie’s eyes, representational, perhaps, of his inner sight that sustained him.

Among the realistic depictions of his farm home, the outskirts of a Texas town seen from a train, and a bustling city, where Johnson plays on a street corner to an appreciative audience, his tin cup hanging from a tuner on his guitar, are transcendent images of Willie performing, his face always lifted to the light. As people gather around a radio listening to Blind Willie Johnson, light once again streams into the shop, and as Golio describes how “Dark Was the Night” becomes a hit, Willie is bathed in a golden glow, his face euphoric with the joy of singing.

At once sensitive, rousing, and inspirational, Dark Was the Night is a beautiful book about one man’s talent and dream that will resonate with all readers. The book is highly recommended for home libraries and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1524738884

Discover more about Gary Golio and his books on his website.

To learn more about E.B. Lewis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Listen to Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night.”

Meet Gary Golio

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Gary Golio is the author of the New York Times bestseller JIMI: Sounds Like a Rainbow – A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrixwinner of a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award; Bird & Diz and Strange Fruit – Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song, both ALA Notables; and other books about legendary artists. A writer and musician, Golio has been featured on NPR’s “Weekend Edition”, CBS-TV’s “Sunday Morning News,” and on radio stations nationwide. He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife, children’s book author Susanna Reich.

Today, I’m thrilled to talk with the multi-talented Gary Golio about Dark Was the Night, his love for writing and art, his father’s influence in his life, and the power of music.

Welcome, Gary! To start off, can you tell readers about your journey with this Dark Was the Night from idea to publication?

A few years back I was listening to some early blues songs, and came upon Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night.” The song stunned me—and gave me the chills. I knew of Willie’s connection with the Voyager I space probe, but had no idea that blues aficionados and amateur music sleuths were devotedly digging for details of his life through the decades. So much mystery surrounded this man—revered by Jimmy Paige, Eric Clapton, and Lucinda Williams—but what intrigued me the most was that, after dying in poverty and being forgotten, Willie and his work enjoyed a revival of interest during the 1960s Folk Movement. Then, in 1978, “Dark Was the Night” ended up on Voyager‘s Golden Record, hurtling through space. And what that said to me is, you never know how a life, and its effect on others, will play out. It’s a hopeful message that inspired me to write the book.

Your father was an artist and you have worked as a fine-artist since you were a teenager. Can you talk about what inspired you to begin writing picture books? Did you always like to write?

My father is an ongoing inspiration in my life. He was a talented amateur artist who provided me with a real-life example of the Art Spirit by how he thought and created. Most importantly, he was a skilled improviser, and didn’t allow himself to be limited by what he didn’t have, something that’s always meant a lot to me. As for writing picture books, I mostly read comics as a boy, and I think it was that combination of pictures and text that really struck a chord. For me, the picture book is a modern descendant of cave painting, Egyptian wall art (images + hieoroglyphs), and Etruscan/Pompeian murals: using words and pictures to tell a story.

In your Author’s Note you talk about the dearth of knowledge about Willie Johnson’s life. Can you share one thing you learned about Willie that didn’t make it into the book?

Willie has a unique voice that somehow manages to balance the rough and the tender. There’s raw power there, but also delicacy, which is very rare. So Willie was in New Orleans at one point—during a recording session there in 1928—and the story goes that he began singing “If I Had My Way I’d Tear this Building Down” in front of the Customs House. A crowd had gathered, listening to him, and a police officer reportedly became so worried—thinking Willie was instigating a riot—that he considered arresting the man. That’s the power of music—to rouse, protest, and stir up human souls—and it’s easy to see why it threatens authority and institutions.

Dark Was the Night is your eighth biography of a musician or entertainer for children. Could you discuss what drew you to write about these musicians?

While there are no actual musicians in my family-of-origin, my parents, grandmother, and maternal aunt all had strong musical interests. Each exposed me to very specific genres and musical tastes—from Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby to Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole (whom I adore), Willie Nelson, and Elvis Presley. Many of these people were Black, and many were strongly influenced by blues and jazz, and I have vivid memories of watching them on TV with my beloved grandmother, even at five and six years old. That openness to all kinds of music really shaped me, and growing up I looked for clues, in the lives of artists, that would help me find my own path and direction. So my books often focus on the early years of an artist’s/musician’s life, highlighting the roots of their artistry—what inspired and shaped them—to provide young readers with roadmaps, of sorts, to a life in the arts.

In addition to being an artist and writer, you also admit to being “a pretty good musician” – something you share with kids on school visits that sound awesome. Which instruments do you play and how do you incorporate music into your book events?

I play acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, banjo, and very simple piano, but love above all to improvise. Since my first book on Jimi Hendrix came out, I’ve used the guitar (both electric and acoustic) to demonstrate a wide range of effects and possibilities (Hendrix and Santana), but also to accompany singalongs I did for my Bob Dylan/Woody Guthrie book. At one school visit, the entire fifth grade and I sang “This Land is Your Land” in Spanish, which was both meaningful and fun.

Each of your books has such distinctive illustrations from incredible illustrators. Can you talk a little about E.B. Lewis’s gorgeous illustrations in Dark Was the Night and how he captured your story and Willie’s personality?

E.B. is truly a master of illustration, and specifically of the watercolor medium. His real superpower, however, lies in his ability to convey human feeling, to mysteriously imbue a person or setting with mood and life. That’s remarkable—reminiscent of watching my father draw an American Indian on horseback, straight out of his head—and it’s what lends E.B.’s work both its power and subtlety. Not surprisingly, he has a real love for human beings, a quality fed by his passion for traveling and teaching all over the world. Though we only met at a bookstore panel five years ago, Earl and I have become close friends, and spend a lot of time on the phone collaborating about the joining of text and image. He’s a pleasure to work with, and his art for Dark Was the Night is truly sublime. This book also gave him the chance to bring his use of color (in his own words) to another level, something that will be obvious to anyone who knows his artwork and sees the new images.

From your bio on your website, you sound as if you were a pretty inventive kid – creating all sorts of cool electronic devices. And I love your story about being “shocked” to find books with Van Gogh’s paintings in them as a child and how formative that was. Could you discuss the importance of nonfiction, and biographies in particular, to children?

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My father could fix most anything, and it was that spirit of improvisation and inventiveness that led me to create little electronic gadgets a la James Bond and The Man from Uncle. For a time, I wanted to be an inventor or electrical engineer, but Art won out. As for van Gogh, watching Lust for Life with my dad had a HUGE impact on me, and seeing a book in the middle school library with all those paintings reproduced made it clear to me—even at 10 years old—that there was gold in reading about the lives of artists.

While I love fantasy, myth, and good stories, the thing about nonfiction is that you’re reading about real people—with all their talents and troubles—and so it’s easier to believe that if someone else muddled through to achieve something, you can also. That’s why I don’t shy away from talking about a person’s “faults” and failures (particularly in my books about John Coltrane and Billie Holiday), because I want kids to see that great people and artists are just as human as everyone else.

What’s up next for you?

Author-wise, I’ve a book coming out next year on the revered jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins (based on many phone conversations we’ve shared), to be illustrated by the great James Ransome. I’ve also sold, just this year, two new picture book texts: one on Roy DeCarava—a gifted artist who photographed the people of Harlem in all their humanity—and another on Walt Whitman, focused on his remarkable and moving nursing experience during the Civil War. After that, who knows where Destiny will lead me?

International Music Day Activity

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I Love Music! Word Search Puzzle

 

International Music Day celebrates all types of music and instruments. Can you find the eighteen different instruments in this printable word search puzzle?

I Love Music! Word Search Puzzle | I Love Music! Word Search Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dark-was-the-night-cover

You can find Dark Was the Night: Blind Willie Johnson’s Journey to the Stars at these booksellers

The Village Bookstore, Pleasantville, NY | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 22 – National Dear Diary Day

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Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate those journals that allow us to express our thoughts and feelings, record events both mundane and life-changing, and give us license to explore our creativity. If you’re a regular diary writer, honor the day with a new entry. If you’ve always considered keeping a diary, today’s a perfect day to start!

Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World

Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall | Illustrated by Aura Lewis

 

“All her life, Anne Frank wanted to be heard. Really, truly heard.” But sometimes no matter how loudly or entertainingly she talked, no one listened or seemed to understand. Anne’s family, “like many other Jewish families, had lived in Germany for centuries,” but when Adolf Hitler began to govern the country, Jewish families were in danger. When Anne was four years old, her family, hoping to find safety, moved to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Here, Anne lived happily, “making mischief with her friends, telling jokes, and having fun. “In school, she talked and talked.”

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Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

But in 1940, Hitler and his Nazi’s took over the Netherlands too, and life for Jewish people living there was no longer safe. Anyone who talked against the Nazis could be arrested, but Anne needed to express her opinions. On her 13th birthday Anne received a red plaid diary; she named it “Kitty.” In Kitty, Anne could share all of her thoughts and feelings about what was happening in her country. She wrote about the rules that restricted Jews from normal life, that made all Jews wear a yellow star that distinguished them from others. But Anne also wrote about school and other subjects. “Anne realized that by writing, she could speak her mind in a new way. She could really, truly be heard.”

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Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Then on a morning in 1942, Anne’s mother woke her, telling her that they needed to leave quickly and hide. Anne “packed her most treasured things.” Her diary was the first thing she packed. She and her family as well as four other people hid in a secret room in the warehouse where Anne’s father worked. Non-Jewish friends who also worked in the warehouse brought them food and supplies. While Anne tried to make the best of her life in hiding, she was lonely and always careful to whisper and tiptoe so the other workers in the factory did not discover them.

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Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Now, Anne’s diary was even more important to her. In Kitty she wrote about her fears and feelings, her days and the things she missed. “She wrote about wishing people could live together, in peace,” and Kitty “was always there to listen, always there to understand.” Anne also wrote stories about a teddy bear, a fairy, and a caring grandmother. Once water seeped in and soaked her diary. Anne rushed to hang the pages to dry. Anne wrote and wrote for two years. She hoped to publish a book about her experience.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-anne-frank-the-girl-heard-around-the-world-crying

Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

“But on August 4, 1944, Nazi police discovered the secret hiding place.” Anne, her family, and all of the people living in the warehouse room were taken away. “One of their non-Jewish friends found Anne’s diary and writings and kept them safe,” hoping to return them to her. But just weeks before the war ended in 1945, Anne died. Anne’s father was the only one to survive. After the war ended, Anne’s father fulfilled her dream and published Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Anne’s book has been read by people around the world and continues to speak for her in the hearts of readers everywhere.

Back matter includes more about Anne, her family, the Nazis and how Anne’s diary was saved; a timeline of Anne’s family, the rise of Hitler, and the war years; an Author’s Note; and lists of sources, suggested further reading, and websites.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-anne-frank-the-girl-heard-around-the-world-world-reads

Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Linda Elovitz Marshall’s moving telling of Anne Frank’s life and dreams, focusing on her beloved diary will resonate with children, who, like Anne, want to be heard. In her evocative storytelling, Marshall creates a rich portrait of Anne as a vivacious child who was also smart and thoughtful. Mirroring the devastating disruptions in Anne’s and her family’s life, Marshall intersperses pages of straightforward text which describes the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and emphasizes ways in which they restricted and silenced the Jewish population, reinforcing her book’s theme. The examples Marshall gives—riding bikes, going to the movies, having to wear an identification star—will impress upon children the changes in Anne’s life.

When Anne and her family move to the Secret Annex, Marshall superbly reveals the conditions of their confinement through Anne’s writing and how her diary was her lifeline and her confidant. The family’s eventual discovery is written factually but with sensitivity, fitting for picture book readers. The final spread honors the influence Anne Frank has had on the world with her diary—her voice that could not be silenced.

In Aura Lewis’s emotionally resonant illustrations, readers first meet Anne Frank in a snapshot that shows her as kind, thoughtful, and seemingly wise beyond her years. Vibrant scenes of Anne with her family in Germany and later with family and friends in Amsterdam give way to somber, gray-toned images that reflect Hitler’s takeover and the dangers Anne, her family, and all Jewish people faced. Lewis clearly sketches Anne’s childhood enthusiasms and hope and, especially, her pleasure at receiving her diary. Also, readily recognizable are Anne’s feelings of fear, frustration, and sadness. Lewis portrays Anne in signature orange and plaid, reflecting the deep interconnection between Anne and her diary. This visual metaphor is then carried onto the final spread, where a variety of people of all ages read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

An excellent book to introduce young children to Anne Frank, a most influential and inspiring young girl, Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World would be a meaningful addition to home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 8

Orchard Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1338312294

Discover more about Linda Elovitz Marshall and her books, visit her website.

To learn more about Aura Lewis, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Dear Diary Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-anne-frank-word-search

Anne Frank and Her Diary Word Search

 

Find the twenty words associated with Anne Frank, her life, and her diary in this printable puzzle

Anne Frank and Her Diary Word Search Puzzle | Anne Frank and Her Diary Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-anne-frank-the-girl-heard-around-the-world-cover

You can find Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

September 9 – It’s National Honey Month

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

About the Holiday

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

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

H is for Honey Bee: A Beekeeping Alphabet

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

 

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-h-is-for-honey-bee-A-and-B

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-h-is-for-honey-bee-N-and-O

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-h-is-for-honey-bee-T-and-U

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 7 – 10 and up

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110700

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

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

National Honey Month Activity

CPB---Busy-Buzzy-Bee-Maze

Busy Buzzy Bee Maze

 

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

Busy Buzzy Bee Maze PuzzleBusy Buzzy Bee Maze Solution!

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

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

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 8 – International Literacy Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-oldest-student-cover

About the Holiday

In 1966 UNESCO (United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture) established International Literacy Day on this date to “actively mobilize the international community to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities, and societies.” This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected education and educational resources around the world. In response, this year’s initiative focuses on “‘literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond,’ and especially on the role of educators and changing pedagogies.” 2020 also ushers in a new five-year program: UNESCO Strategy for Youth and Adult Literacy to develop policies and strategies to address the learning needs of disadvantaged groups, especially women and girls; to leverage digital technologies to expand access and improve outcomes; and to monitor and assess literacy programs. To learn more about today’s holiday and UNESCO’s global literacy programs, visit the United Nations International Literacy Day webpage.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

Written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard | Illustrated by Oge Mora

 

As a child slave on an Alabama plantation, Mary Walker knew the rules: Keep working and no learning to read or write. But when she stopped for a moment to rest while “picking cotton, toting water to Papa and the other slaves who chopped wood for the train tracks, or helping Mama clean the Big House,” she watched the birds and dreamed of being free. In bed at night, she would think “When I’m free, I’ll go where I want and rest when I want. And I’ll learn to read too.”

When Mary was fifteen, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. While many freed slaves moved north, Mary and her family, like others, chose to stay in the South. With the help of the Freedmen’s Bureau, they moved into a one-room cabin. To raise money, Mary worked long hours every day of the week without a break to eat, drink, or even use the outhouse. “At week’s end, she would offer Mama the one lonely quarter she had earned.” One day, Mary met an evangelist who gave her a Bible, telling her “Your civil rights are in these pages.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-oldest-student-bible

Image copyright Oge Mora, 2020, text copyright Rita Lorraine Hubbard, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Mary didn’t know what that meant. “She only knew that top to bottom, front to back, that book was filled with words”—words she vowed to learn…someday. But first came marriage, sharecropping, and a son. When a friend wrote his birth date in the Bible, all Mary could do was make a mark beside the words.

When Mary’s first husband died, she married again and had two more sons. To bring them up, Mary spent the next forty years sharecropping and doing odd jobs to help support her family. Eventually, the family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Mary was sixty-eight and too old to farm, but she still cooked, cleaned, and cared for other people’s children to make money. She also cooked and sold food to support her church. On Sunday’s she listened to the preacher while clutching “her family Bible—the Bible she still couldn’t read.”

“When Mary was well past ninety,” her sons read to her and her husband. As time passed, her younger sons died and then her husband. Her oldest son died at the age of ninety-four, leaving Mary alone and living in a retirement home. As she looked out the window at the signs and billboards, “she sighed. All this time, she thought, and they still look like squiggles.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-oldest-student-ninety

Image copyright Oge Mora, 2020, text copyright Rita Lorraine Hubbard, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

When her retirement home offered a reading class, Mary joined in. At 114, “she was the oldest student in the class—and probably in the entire country.” For the next year and longer, she studied and wrote and memorized. She began recognizing sight words and putting them together into short sentences. All of Mary’s hard work came together, and at last at the age of 116, she could read! Mary’s story traveled across the country, and journalists came to interview her. A representative from the US Department of Education pronounced her “‘the world’s oldest student.’”

“Mary felt complete.” When she felt lonely, she read her Bible or the signs she could see from her window. In Chattanooga, Mary’s accomplishment was celebrated with annual birthday parties. President Lyndon B. Johnson sent her a letter when she turned 118 in 1969, and President Richard Nixon sent a card when she turned 121. Among all the gifts she received over those years, her favorite was a ride in small airplane that dipped and soared like the birds she had watched as a child. As she looked at the landscape below, “Mary decided that flying was a lot like reading: they both made a body feel as free as a bird.” Each year, to start her birthday celebration, Mary read to the people gathered and as she closed the book, she always said, “You’re never too old to learn.”

An Author’s Note that reveals more about Mary Walker’s life follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-oldest-student-studying

Image copyright Oge Mora, 2020, text copyright Rita Lorraine Hubbard, 2020. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Rita Lorraine Hubbard’s moving portrait of Mary Walker and her resolve to learn to read even at an advanced age is inspirational for all. Hubbard’s straightforward storytelling focuses on Mary’s grueling work and the obstacles and responsibilities that delayed her education while also revealing her resilience, her generosity, and the strong bonds she shared with her family. Mary’s equating reading and education with freedom even as a child will resonate with today’s students and offers encouragement when lessons are difficult. With excellent pacing and a depth of details that will keep children riveted to this true story, Hubbard tells not only Mary’s history but that of many African-American families, making The Oldest Student a poignant book to share for reading, history, and social studies in classrooms as well as for home story times.

Oge Mora’s collage-style illustrations, incorporating strips of written text and musical scores, enrich Hubbard’s story with images of Mary working as a slave and later at various jobs always surrounded by words she cannot read. Later, as Mary gazes out of the window of her retirement home and passes fliers on the bulletin board there, the signs and papers are covered in squiggles, giving young readers an idea of how Mary sees the written world. After Mary learns to read, Mora replaces these with the actual signs, a clear example of the difference the ability to read makes. Mora’s early depictions of Mary, her head and back bowed by arduous, exhausting labor, are heartbreaking, making later images of her, head held high with pride and accomplishment, all the more emotional.

An uplifting and powerful lesson on perseverance and never giving up on a dream, The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 

Schwartz & Wade, 2020 | ISBN 978-1524768287

Discover more about Rita Lorraine Hubbard and her books, visit her website.

To learn more about Oge Mora, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Literacy 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 genre along with nineteen others in this printable puzzle.

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-oldest-student-cover

You can find The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 26 – International Dog Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-old-dog-cover

About the Holiday

International Dog Day was established in 2004 by Colleen Paige to raise awareness of all the dogs who need forever homes. The day also celebrates dogs of all breeds and honors the work of these faithful friends, whether they are family pets or specially trained as service dogs, police dogs, or search-and-rescue dogs. This month is also National Family Fun Month, and as pet owners know, the special times we spend with our furry, feathered, or other friends add up to lots of family fun. 

This Old Dog

Written by Martha Brockenbrough | Illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo

 

In the morning, old dog opens his eyes and greets the sun. “His bones are sore but his heart is strong.” He leaves his bed and stretches. He has breakfast and then asks for a walk. But there’s a new baby in the house, and while old dog likes to take things slow, “the speed of life since the girl was born is fast, fast, fast…” and his walks are too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-old-dog-morning

Image copyright Gabriel Alborozo, 2020, text copyright Martha Brockenbrough, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

When he gets home, he “drifts to sleep in a stripe of sun and dreams of days gone by….Of long walks and deep sniffs.” When he wakes up, he wishes he had a friend who saw grass and leaf piles and stones the way he did; someone he could go on nice long walks with. But there is no one. Until…the girl takes one shaky step and then another and another “all the way to him.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-old-dog-dreams

Image copyright Gabriel Alborozo, 2020, text copyright Martha Brockenbrough, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

Now “old dog and small girl walk side by side.” They stop in the grass and “roll down the hill.” She plays with old dog and makes him feel young again. His heart and his tail go “THUMP-THUMP!” Her feet go “THUMP-THUMP!” That night they fall asleep in the same strip of moonlight and “meet in a dream…” where they “walk side by side through the world, the wonderful world.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-old-dog-leaf

Image copyright Gabriel Alborozo, 2020, text copyright Martha Brockenbrough, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

You don’t need to own a dog for Martha Brockenbrough’s story to melt your heart. Her short, straightforward sentences are carried on a leisurely, dreamy rhythm, giving them emotional impact and allowing readers to relive the good days, when there was all the time in the world, with old dog. Her lyrical language is endearingly dog-centric, but when the girl comes on the scene, readers will see that each example of old dog’s favorite things also applies to toddlers and young children. That old dog gets to slow down and enjoy life at his speed with the little girl may bring a tear to adult readers while kids will embrace the spontaneity and unspoken understanding between these two kindred spirits. Perfectly paced and with specific details borne of love for dogs and children, Brockenbrough’s This Old Dog offers the comfort of enduring friendship and the joy of discovering—and rediscovering—the world with a loved one.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-old-dog-side-by-side

Image copyright Gabriel Alborozo, 2020, text copyright Martha Brockenbrough, 2020. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

Gabriel Alborozo’s small, long-haired dog, gray and slowed by age yet still lively in spirit is as cute as they come. The front endpaper, which shows a dog’s-eye-view of a man and a very pregnant woman setting up a nursery gives children a hint of the changes to come in old dog’s home. As old dog is introduced, scattered toys and a photograph of a little girl on the windowsill show the progression of time. From the adults’ rushing legs to the first glimpse of the girl walking, each spread depicts old dog’s perspective, mirroring the emotional pull of the text.

What old dog wants in a walk and what he dreams of in his afternoon nap are contrasted with his new reality with images of his collar being tugged by the leash left, right, and forward as he stops to sniff the grass or listen to the breeze. In his sweet remembrances of past carefree days, old dog has no leash. Readers will be cheered to see that as he and the little girl play together he once again is let off the leash to share his old and her new favorite activities. Alborozo’s delicate lines and cartoon-inspired images are just right for portraying old dog’s dreams, emotions, and special times shared with the little girl. Humorous touches and old dog’s expressive face add visual depth and understanding to this special tale.

Moving, sweet, and reaffirming, This Old Dog is a must and will quickly become a favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Levine Querido, 2020 | ISBN 978-1646140107

Discover more about Martha Brockenbrough and her books on her website.

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

International Dog Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-love-dogs-wordsearch-puzzle-shorter-size

I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle

 

If you love dogs, you’ll have fun discovering the names of eighteen dog breeds in this printable word search puzzle!

I Love Dogs! Word Search Puzzle | I Love Dogs! Word Search Solution

For younger kids, here’s a matching puzzle!

CPB - Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

 

Each of the puppies has a friend. Can you match them up based on one trait? There may be multiple right answers! Why do you think the dogs you chose go together in this printable puzzle?

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-old-dog-cover

You can find This Old Dog at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound | The Neverending Bookshop (preorder before September 1 to receive a signed book and special dog tag necklace)

Picture Book Review