November 9 – National Aviation History Month

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About the Holiday

If you look back in history you see that people have always been fascinated with flight. The first kite was invented in 1000 BCE in China; around 400 BCE Archytas of Tarentum developed a steam-powered pigeon; and most people are familiar with the designs of flying machines that Leonardo de Vinci created in the late 1400s. An important discovery that led inventors in the right direction came in 1680 when an Italian mathematician determined that human muscles were incompatible with flight.

Zip ahead about 100 years and the first hot-air balloon flight was undertaken, which led to more and more complex technology, resulting in Wilbur and Orville Wright’s flight in 1903. From there, it seemed, the sky was the limit. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a trans-Atlantic Ocean solo flight in 1932, and in 1947 Charles Yeager broke the sound barrier. But it’s astounding to think that from that modest 12-second first flight by the Wright Brothers to the first man in space—Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin—it took only 58 years! Today astronauts from countries around the world live and work in the International Space Station, and spacecraft are traversing deep space.

Wind Flyers

Written by Angela Johnson | Illustrated by Loren Long

 

With pride a young African-American boy tells the story of his great-great-uncle who was a Tuskegee Airman in World War II. His uncle was “a smooth wind flyer. A Tuskegee wind flyer…,” the boy says. He knows well his uncle’s history—how like a bird, his uncle believed he was born to fly. “With his arms flapping, he jumped off a chicken coop at the age of five,” and when he was only seven he soared from a lofty barn into a pile of hay. His first real flight came at the age of eleven, when he paid 75 cents to be a passenger with a barnstormer.

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Image copyright Loren Long, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Flying over lakes and fields, his uncle felt as if he were in Heaven, among clouds “like soft blankets, saying, ‘Come on in, get warm. Stay awhile and be a wind flyer too.’” The experience changed him forever. In fact he “cried when they landed because then he knew what it was like to go into the wind, against the wind, beyond the wind.” As a young adult his uncle contributed his dream and his skills to the World War II effort, becoming a Tuskegee Airman, one of the first black pilots in the United States military.

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Image copyright Loren Long, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

As the pair sit in the uncle’s barn, surrounded by his military uniform, leather jacket, and other memories of his flying career—after the war to continue flying he became a crop duster—the pair look through old photographs, seeing once more those young and brave pilots—the Tuskegee wind flyers. Planes are different now, Uncle says, but the clouds remain the same. The boy and his uncle climb to the highest point of the uncle’s barn to watch the jets—and in those moments they once more become the smooth wind flyers, flying into the wind and beyond.

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Image copyright Loren Long, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

In her soaring, rhythmic language, Angela Johnson captures the dreams and yearning of a young boy whose greatest desire is to fly among the clouds. Her combination of straight narration with lyrical lines as he joins the Tuskegee Airman in World War II enhances the sense of achievement and pride the young pilots felt. The structure of the story is well chosen, as relating the uncle’s life from childhood through old age through the eyes of his nephew strengthens the themes of strong familial relationships as well as shared dreams across generations.

Loren Long gives Wind Flyers additional power with his strong, vibrant paintings. Two-page spreads provide a sense of the vastness of the skies that so enticed the young would-be pilot. Even the clouds echo the emotion of the page—fluffy, floating, and alive in the flight scenes while linear, flat, and stationary when the plane and the uncle are earthbound. Realistic portrayals of the boy, his uncle, and the other Tuskegee Airmen are reminiscent of the WPA murals of the 1940s while still setting this book firmly in today for a new generation.

Wind Flyers is a wonderful book to share with aviation buffsm budding historians, and dreamers of all types and would make a welcome thoughtful book for quiet story times.

Ages 4 – 9

Simon & Schuster Books for Young People, 2007 | ISBN 978-0689848797

To learn more about Angela Johnson‘s books for all ages, visit her website!

View a gallery of artwork for picture books and other media by Loren Long, visit his website!

National Aviation History Month Activity

CPB - Biplane side

Head in the Clouds Box Biplane

 

If you love airplanes and flying, you’ll have fun making your own plane from recycled materials! Use your creativity to decorate your plane while you imagine yourself flying through the clouds on a beautiful day. Younger children will have fun sharing this activity with an adult or older sibling too!

Supplies

  • Travel-size toothpaste box
  • 3 6-inch x 1/2-inch craft sticks
  • 2  2 1/2-inch x 7/8-inch mini craft sticks
  • 5 Round toothpicks, with points cut off
  • Paint in whatever colors you like for your design
  • 4 small buttons 
  • 2 mini buttons
  • Paint brushes
  • Strong glue or glue gun

CPB - Biplane front

Directions

  1. Empty toothpaste box
  2. Paint toothpaste box and decorate it
  3. Paint the craft sticks and 5 toothpicks
  4. Paint one small craft stick to be the propeller
  5. Let all objects dry

To assemble the biplane

  1. For the Bottom Wing – Glue one 6-inch-long craft stick to the bottom of the plane about 1 inch from the end of the box that is the front of the plane
  2. For the Top Wing – Glue the other 6-inch-long craft stick to the top of the plane about 1 inch from the front of the plane
  3. For the Tail – Glue one mini craft stick to the bottom of the box about ¾ inches from the end that is the back of the plane
  4. For the Vertical Rudder – Cut the end from one of the painted 6-inch-long craft sticks, glue this to the back of the box, placing it perpendicular against the edge and half-way between each side

CPB - Biplane bottom

To assemble the front wheels

  1. Cut 4 painted toothpicks to a length of ¾-inches long
  2. Cut one painted toothpick to a length of 1-inch long
  3. Glue 2 of the 3/4-inch toothpicks to the back of 1 button, the ends of the toothpicks on the button should be touching and the other end apart so the toothpicks form a V
  4. Repeat the above step for the other wheel
  5. Let the glue dry
  6. Glue the 1-inch long toothpick between the wheels at the center of each wheel to keep them together and give them stability. Let dry

To make the back wheel

  1. Cut two ¼-inch lengths of painted toothpick and glue them together. Let dry
  2. Glue two mini buttons together to form the back wheel. Let dry
  3. Glue the ¼-inch toothpicks to the mini buttons. Let dry
  4. Glue these to the bottom of the plane in the center of the box directly in front of and touching the tail

Display your biplane!

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

September 7 – Buy a Book Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2012 Buy a Book Day promotes an appreciation for physical paperback and hardbound books. Whether you’re cracking open a brand new release or gently turning the pages in a well-worn volume, holding an actual book in your hands is an unforgettable connection between you, the author, and another world—real or imaginary. Today, drop into your local bookstore and peruse the shelves—you’ll be sure to find a fascinating book to buy.

A Child of Books

By Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

 

A little girl sits on a log raft with a parchment sail, dangling her feet into the water that swirls around her legs in an eddy made of words that read: “Once upon a time there was a child who loved to read…,” while the rest of the words disperse and float away. In fact, the girl is reading now—a book with a keyhole in the middle. “I am a child of books,” she reveals. “I come from a world of stories.” The wind catches the sail of her raft and the girl is off on an adventure, rising and dipping with the cresting letters that make up waves coming from the deeper sea of straight lines of excerpted text from classics including The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and Kidnapped.

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Image copyrights Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, courtesy of oliverjeffers.com

The waves bring her to shore, where riding atop one she towers over a small boy. The girl asks if he will sail away with her. He peers into the window of his house where his father sits reading the newspaper. Headlines announce “Serious Stuff,” “Facts,” “Important Things,” and “Business.” And indeed just a glance at the articles will inform readers that “A group of serious people passed on concerns about a serious document that has been lost by a serious organization….”; that “Scientists have discovered a new fact. In one test, nearly half the subjects proved the fact, it was revealed….”; and that “an important company is to stop producing some important stuff by later this year. It said no one wanted this particular bit of important stuff.” The father’s glasses glint with numbers that rim the frames like tears.

The girl says that “some people have forgotten” where she lives, but that she can lead him on the way. The two follow a path of words from Alice in Wonderland, and the boy watches worriedly as the girl confidently climbs down a hole in the lines. There is more climbing to be done, however, and the girl, in her blue and white sailor dress, holds the boys hand as they traverse mountains made of Peter Pan that reach into the sky. By the time the friends row their dinghy into a dark cave created from the story of Treasure Island and discover a wooden chest, the boy is eager and excited for the journey.

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Image copyrights Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, courtesy of oliverjeffers.com

The girl and boy play hide-and-seek among tall trees made of books, where titles and lines of Hansel and Gretel, Little Red-Cap, The Golden Goose, Tom Thumb, and more jut out as leaf-covered branches. They leave the woods and come to a haunted castle that is being attacked by a monster made dark and hairy with the words of Frankenstein and Dracula. This time the boy holds a line of Rapunzel as the girl deftly shimmies to the top of a turret.

Tuckered out, the pair of friends ascend ladders to clouds of lullabies and drift into dreamland where they stand on the moon so they can “shout as loud as we like in space.” But perhaps it is not the moon but, instead, their own imaginary world made of color and characters, palaces and possibilities where stories may end but creativity lives on because “we’re made from stories…” and “our house is a home of invention.”

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Image copyrights Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, courtesy of oliverjeffers.com

If any book invites readers to linger over the intricacies of its pages, A Child of Books is it. A perfect combination of Oliver Jeffers’ homage to the power of storytelling and Sam Winston’s artistry with typography, A Child of Books summons readers of all ages to leave the weariness of the “serious” world and enter the realm of the imagination.

The lilting lines of Oliver Jeffers’ prose poem flow with the stream of consciousness that allows thinkers to journey to nooks and crannies, participate in majestic vistas, and create the unknown of their own fancies. In Sam Winston’s hands sentences and paragraphs describing classic sea voyages swell into waves; lines from other classics crowd in upon each other, solidifying into a hidden inlet or forming a horned creature; and soft yellowed pages return to replicate the trees they once were. In the end a rainbow of characters spin out from a revolving globe, depicting our full color world.

Maps laid out by the storytellers of the past may show us routes to take but as A Child of Books reveals, there is so much white space yet to be discovered. For bibliophiles young and old, A Child of Books makes a beautiful gift and will be a welcome addition to personal library shelves.

Ages 4 and up

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763690779

Visit Oliver Jeffers’ website to view his wide-ranging work in picture books, paintings, film, and more. You can follow a paper airplane to fun games based on his picture books in Oliver Jeffers’ World.

To see the unique perspective of Sam Winston, view his books, projects, and archives on his website!

Watch the Child of Books book trailer!

 

Buy a Book Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i've-got-the-reading-bug-books-to-read-list

I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Buy List

 

Do you love to read? Do you have a wish list of books you want to read next? Me too! Use this printable I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Buy sheet to keep track of those great book ideas.

August 24 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

One of the rights of passage for children going to school for the first time (or starting the next grade) is shopping for new clothes and supplies. These include pencils, paper, folders, three-ring binders, lunchboxes, and the backpacks to store it all in as well as a few new shirts, a couple pairs of pants, and maybe a jacket to take kids into the cooler weather. And of course a trip to the shoe store is paramount for those fast-growing feet! If only shopping could be as exciting as it is for the little boy in today’s book. With a little imagination it can be!

Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes

Written by Tim Wynne-Jones | Illustrated by Brian Won

 

S.A.M. has an important missions to complete. He is “digging for the Lost City of Raisins…tracking down the treacherous green spitting bug…balancing on high places…and stealing home”—all while K is hanging out the laundry. K looks at S.A.M sitting on the ground with his box of raisins and says, “‘You need new shoes.’” And it’s true. S.A.M.’s red shoes are tattered and scuffed, and his toes are even poking out of the sole.

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

On the way downtown, S.A.M tells K that he can’t decide between rocket shoes and vanishing shoes as he reads a document titled Plans for World Domination. At the store they are met by a clerk carrying a tall stack of boxes. He assures the pair that he’ll help them in a minute, but with his eagle eyes S.A.M. thinks the “Shoe Store Man looks shifty and orders his agents to “‘frisk him.’” The Shoe Store Man turns out to be okay, and S.A.M. tries on lots of shoes. He finally settles on a pair with tiger stripes, and K gets the same for herself.

Time for lunch? “‘ROAR,’” answers S.A.M. All the shoe buying and secret agent prowling has made S.A.M. hungry. “He orders the double buffalo burger with a side of snakes and an electron float. “‘We are matching tigers,’” he says to K. K pokes her fork into a snake fry. “‘ROAR,’” she says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-secret-agent-man-goes-shopping-for-shoes-taking-a-nap

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

The bus ride home is fraught with danger as S.A.M. foils an attempt by a spy in a stroller to steal the Plans for World Domination. “‘Phew! That was close,’” K says. The stairs to the front door seem unusually steep and tiring, and S.A.M is feeling “whoozy.” There’s only one explanation, he decides: his electron float must have been spiked. S.A.M drifts off into a short nap where he dreams of “beautiful poisonous butterflies and dangerous inflatable frogs.”

Later he has a secret meeting with Agent Coyote, Agent Ted, and Agent Pig. Their mission is to decode the Plans for World Domination by three o’clock. S.A.M. then goes looking for K. He can’t find her anywhere—not in the Chamber of Silence (the closet), not in the Holding Cell of Dispair (the bathroom), not in the Torture Chamber (the piano room), and not in the Rocket Silo (the utility closet). She’s not even in the Darkest Valley of Doom (the basement). Just then S.A.M. hears thunder.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-secret-agent-man-goes-shopping-for-shoes-in-the-basement

Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

S.A.M. grabs his new orange and black striped shoes, ties up the laces and races to the rescue with the speed of a tiger. K is outside “bringing in the clouds.” Some are being torn away by the wind, and S.A.M. makes a flying leap to save them. As the storm rages outside, S.A.M. and K relax inside with “steaming mugs of lava topped with dollops of candied gardenia and pearls” while discussing S.A.M.’s latest mission. It’s lucky, he says that his “Team of Expert Spies warned him about the storm.”

K recognizes the group “‘T.O.E.S.,’” she says. S.A.M. concurs. “‘We’re ready for anything.’” And indeed they are—in fact S.A.M. has even learned to ties his own tiger shoes. “‘ROAR!’”

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Tim Wynne-Jones channels every kid’s dream of being a spy in this funny send up of an ordinary day of shopping and doing laundry. Using clever acronyms and a full dose of imagination, Wynne-Jones turns raisins into gemstones, French fries into snakes, fluffy laundry into clouds, and a boy into a secret agent man with tiger shoes and abilities. K is a supportive sidekick, encouraging S.A.M’s ingenuity and quick thinking and playing along with his day-brightening shenanigans. S.A.M.’s names for the various rooms in the house will make kids laugh, and they will also love his sweet little boy alter-ego.

Brian Won deftly and humorously shifts between S.A.M.’s secret missions and his reality, depicting S.A.M.’s imaginary world in blue, black, and white and his real world in vivid color. Crafty juxtapositions include an image of the Shoe Store Man, his arms loaded with boxes and his face peeping between them on the left-hand page while on the right-hand page, S.A.M. in his spy gear shuffles along a wall of shoe-display shelves where two illuminated eyes search the darkness. Another occurs when S.A.M and K are having lunch. The top two-thirds of the two-page spread is cloaked in darkness, snakey French fries, an exploding drink, and cool costumes while the lower third shows their regular clothes and new matching tiger sneakers. The tiger unleashed by the new shoes is a vibrant flash in this book that moves as smoothly between life and fancy as a wild cat on the chase.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763671198

Check out Tim Wynne-Jones’ website for a vast array of books and other fun stuff!

A gallery of work by Brian Won is awaiting you on his website!

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shoe-lace-craft

Coolee-o-lee Shoe Laces

 

It’s fun and easy to design your own shoe laces for your favorite sneakers or boots or even for tying up hair styles, decorating your room, or you name it!

Supplies

  • White or colorful shoe laces, wide
  • Fabric paint or markers

Directions

  1. Draw or paint special designs or figures on the shoe laces
  2. Let dry
  3. Wear with pride!

Picture Book Review

August 10 – World Lion Day

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About the Holiday

The organization Big Cat Rescue established today’s holiday to bring awareness to the declining lion population. Habitat depletion, climate change, poaching, and other dangers have taken their toll on these majestic animals, and they are now on the endangered list. Global organizations aim to reverse the trend through education, protection, and governmental policy.

Lion Lessons

By Jon Agee

 

Passing signs for yoga lessons, violin lessons, Spanish classes, knitting classes, karate classes tutoring, a little boy turns into a shop advertising Lion Lessons in 7 Easy Steps. A closet to the right of a poster depicting “Great Lions in History” contains the appropriate garb—lion costumes. The boy steps into the body and attaches the mane. “It’s not easy getting your Lion Diploma,” the boy tells readers. “I know. I took lessons.”

His instructor, a lion himself, reveals that there are seven steps to becoming a lion. But first comes stretching. Converted yoga poses—“the Upward Lion, the Downward Lion, the Upside-Down Lion, the Rolling Lion, and the Flying Lion”—prepare them for the class to come. And, oh yes, they must shake their manes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lion-lessons-jon-agee-wearing-lion-costume

Image copyright Jon Agee, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers

Step One to becoming a lion is “Looking Fierce.” The instructor demonstrates how to do it, complete with bared claws, gnashing teeth, and glinting fangs. The boy attempts these poses, but his instructor isn’t impressed. Step Two is “Roaring.” The boy steps up to the microphone and gives it his loudest growl. The sound barely registers on the noise meter.

Step Three is “Choosing What to Eat.” The instructor folds out the menu, with its wide choice of meats: “free-range muskrat, wombats, organic iguana, grass-fed gnu, all-you-can-eat antelope, sloth, prairie-raised anteater, and wild warthog.” Where’s the spaghetti? the boy wonders, only to learn that lions don’t eat spaghetti. Next up is Step Four: “Prowling Around.” Practice takes place in the forest where the boy learns to hide in the bushes and behind trees without letting his tail show.

Step Five is “Sprinting” and requires meeting the instructor at a faraway tree in five minutes; it took the boy one hour. After Sprinting comes “Pouncing.” The lion maneuvers the boy behind a woman talking on her phone and says, “‘It’s simple. You get a running start and then you jump on that lady.’” The boy protests that he will scare her to death. “‘Uh,’” says the lion, “‘that’s the idea.’” So the boy gets a running start and leaps—right into the lady’s arms. “‘What a cute little kitty-cat!’” she says.

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Image copyright Jon Agee, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers

Step seven is “Looking Out for Your Friends.” The boy peers through the telescope and sees a kitten: friend. The dog chasing the kitten: not a friend. The boy lets out a “ferocious roar.” He bares his claws, gnashes his teeth, paws the ground, shakes his mane and sprints across the field. When he’s within striking distance, he pounces…and saves the kitten! “‘Bravo!!’” congratulates the lion.

And that is how the little boy earned his diploma and became a hero to all the neighborhood cats in the bargain!

What kid wouldn’t like to be a lion—if even for a day? To be king of the classroom, or king of the playground, or even king of the house would be awesome. Jon Agee taps into that childhood (and adulthood?) mind set with his story of the little boy who channels his inner big cat to save a little cat from the neighborhood bully dog. Agee’s droll allusions to other popular classes enhances the humor for both kid and adult readers. Instead of yoga pants or a karate gi, the boy dons a lion uniform and proceeds on to perform lion-inspired exercises. While seemingly simple give-and-take, the dialogue between the two characters contains more dry wit that will have kids agreeing with their picture book counterpart and giggling at his predicament.

The over-sized pages and full-bleed colorful spreads allow for king-sized laughs. This is one lion instructor who takes his job seriously no matter how unsavory the menu or pouncing practice may seem to humans. Jon Agee never fails to entertain, and Lion Lessons continues the fun.

Ages 4 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0803739086

To learn more about Jon Agee and his books and view a gallery of his illustrations, visit his website!

World Lion Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-spoon-lion-craft

Wooden Spoon Lion Puppet

 

Unleash your inner lion! With this craft you can make a ROARingly cute lion puppet!

Supplies

  • Wooden mixing spoon
  • Yellow Fleece
  • Brown felt
  • Colorful Fleece or felt
  • Fabric glue
  • Light brown marker
  • Dark brown marker
  • Hot glue gun or super glue

Directions

  1. To make the lion’s face
  2. Draw a nose, mouth, and eyes on the front/bowl of the spoon

To make the mane

  1. Measure the rim of the spoon from one side of the handle to the other
  2. Cut a strip of yellow fleece as long as rim measurement and 4 inches wide
  3. Fold the piece of fleece in half long-ways
  4. Glue the open edges of the fleece together
  5. Along the folded side cut a fringe, leaving the loops intact

To make the ears

  1. Cut round ears from the brown felt

To assemble the lion

  1. Glue the ears to the back of the spoon
  2. Glue the mane to the back of the spoon

To make the bow

  1. Cut a 3-inch x 1 ½-inch piece of colorful fleece or felt
  2. Cut a long thin strip of fleece or felt
  3. Pinch the bow in the middle and tie with the longer piece of cloth. Trim as necessary
  4. Glue the bow to the handle

To make the tail

  1. Cut three thin 4-inch-long strips of yellow fleece
  2. With fabric glue, glue the tops of the strips together
  3. Braid the strips
  4. At the bottom, glue the strips together, leaving the ends free
  5. Fold the top of the tail and push it into the hole in the handle of the spoon

August 9 – Book Lovers Day

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About the Holiday

For readers today’s holiday might be the best day of the year! With so many fantastic books to discover, one day doesn’t seem like enough! To make the most of it get up early and go to bed late, call in sick (Shhh…don’t tell them I told you to), order take out for lunch and dinner or read in a favorite restaurant, hire a baby sitter, go to the library or local bookstore….Just find a way to have quiet time to yourself—like Roger in today’s book!

Roger Is Reading a Book

By Koen Van Biesen | Translated by Laura Watkinson

 

Roger is a minimalist. His room consists of a black padded stool, a hook holding an orange coat, scarf, and umbrella, an extendable lamp jutting from the wall, and a basset hound pining for its leash crumpled on the floor. And—oh yes—there is Roger. Roger is sitting on the stool, reading. The little volume is engrossing, and Roger, in his tweed cap, plaid bowtie, green sweater vest, white shirt, orange outlined pants, and blue striped socks tucked into white shoes, is pondering a page.

Suddenly from the other side of the wall/left-hand page comes a resounding BOING BOING. It’s Emily bouncing a basketball! Roger flips his lid and the dog’s ear springs to attention. Emily, herself, and her room are a sight to behold. Emily’s thick unruly hair sports an enormous butterfly, she wears a number 2 on her pink dress, and her room is cluttered with the trappings of her hobbies. Roger rises, sets his book on the stool, and knocks on the wall while his dog offers his leash with hope. Emily stops her bouncing to listen.

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Image copyright Koen Van Biesen

Ah! Silence reigns once more and Roger goes back to his book. But what’s this?! Emily is singing. The song is “LALALA” loud! Once again Roger knocks—“KNOCKITY KNOCK.” His dog wags his tail at the door. Okay, order has been restored and Roger, a little distracted, goes back to reading. What on Earth??!! “BOOM BOOM BOOM” Emily is playing the drum. The noise shakes Roger to his core. A shoe flies off, the lamp leaps upward, the book bounds away, Roger whips his head around. “KNOCK KNOCK KNOCKITY KNOCK” Ugh! Thinks Emily. Not this too!

“POK POK POK” Emily juggles colorful clubs while poor Roger rubs his eyes, his book languishing in his hand. Even the basset hound has a paw over his snout. “TRIP TRIP TRAP” Emily is now practicing ballet. Despondent Roger has turned his back on the whole thing—as has his dog and his lamp. The book lies abandoned in the corner. “BAF BAF BAF” Emily is boxing! Something must be done! Roger paces. “Is Roger reading? No, Roger is not reading now.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roger-is-reading-emily-dancing

Image copyright Koen Van Biesen

“Book down. Coat on. Scarf on. Light off. Roger has made up his mind.” “KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.” Roger knocks on Emily’s door. With a package. Emily tears it open. “OH…A book.” Roger returns to his room and his coat and scarf to the hook. He turns on the lamp and sits down on the stool. “Shhhh! Quiet. Emily is reading. Emily is reading a book.” It’s about juggling and basketball and other things. She holds her stuffed giraffe for company. “Shhhh! Quiet. Roger is reading. Roger is reading a book.” His failthful dog lies nearby for company.

Late into the night they read, their rooms illuminated only by a single lamp. “WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF ….” Both Roger and Emily jump, startled out of their reverie. There’s only one thing to do. Roger and Emily take the dog for a walk.

With just a glance at the cover of Koen Van Biesen’s Roger Is Reading a Book, readers know they are in for a treat. The distinctive artwork defies simple explanation. Part outline, part optical illusion, the illustrations combine the immediacy of an art installation with the humor of a New Yorker cartoon. You feel for Roger, who just wants to sit quietly and read his book. But perhaps also for Emily, alone, who is trying to fill the empty hours. And of course for Roger’s basset hound, who has a very real need to go out.

The trio’s circumstances come together on a rainy afternoon to create escalating hilarity and finally the perfect solution. The minimal text, displayed in various sizes and colors of type, enhances the droll nature of Roger and Emily’s contest of wills and allows for the illustrations to depict Roger’s growing discontent and Emily’s dedication to her activities. Roger’s basset hound and lamp are funny foils empathizing with Roger’s pain.

The unique art and fun animated read-aloud opportunities presented in this picture book make Roger Is Reading a Book a must for kids’ (or adults’) libraries.

Ages 4 – 8 (and up)

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0802854421

Book Lovers Day Activity

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Read aLOUD Bookmark

 

Make some noise for your favorite book with this bell-tastic bookmark! It’s easy to make, and everywhere you go you’ll give your book a ringing endorsement!

Supplies

  • 3 novelty shoe laces or three strands of thin ribbon in different designs
  • 6 small jingle bells

Directions

  1. Cut the shoelaces or ribbon to the length you want for your books
  2. Knot the three shoelaces or strands of ribbon together at one end
  3. Braid the three shoelaces or strands of ribbon together
  4. Knot the strands together at the top, leaving about two inches of unbraided shoelace or ribbon hanging
  5. Thread the bells on a piece of string or cord
  6. At the knot tie the bells around the shoelaces or ribbon

Picture Book Review

July 21 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

Culinary arts from entrees to desserts and everything in between are celebrated during July. Whether you like going out to restaurants or staying in for a home-cooked meal remember to thank the chef for their time and talents!

Kitchen Dance

By Maurie J. Manning

 

A little girl wakens to sounds coming from the kitchen—“Glasses clinking. Water swishing. Forks clattering.” Then more personal sounds—humming, laughing, and “hush!” The girl slips out of her blankets and climbs to the top bunk to wake her brother, Tito. Together they tiptoe downstairs and peek through the kitchen door. “A bright skirt flashes by! Four feet fly!”

With a wooden spoon microphone the kids’ father sings, “Cómo te quiero! Oh, how I love you. Umm, hmm.” Juggling stacked plates in one hand while using the other to dance hand-in-hand, the kids’ parents glide, slide, and twirl around the kitchen floor. Laughing, their mom closes cabinet doors with a bump of her hips as she spins into her husband’s arms “then out again, like a yo-yo on a string.”

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Image copyright Maurie J. Manning

Pots and pans find their storage space with a swirl and a dip while another is dried with the swish of a towel. Around the kitchen the couple dances, “feet tapping, water dripping, sponge wiping, towel snapping.” While singing, “they tango across the room with the leftover tamales.” As they turn toward the door, Mama glimpses her little ones. The kids squeal and start to run, but Papa swings open the door—“Hola!” He pulls Tito into his arms, while Mama catches her tiny daughter.

As the four whirl around the kitchen, Tito and his sister sing into wooden spoons, “Cómo te quiero! Oh, how I love you!” They “twirl around and around in a circle of family.” The dance slows to a gentle swaying as Tito and his sister grow sleepy. Mama and Papa carry their drowsing children upstairs and cover them once more under their cozy blankets. “Cómo te quiero,” Papa whispers. “Besitos, mi’ja,” Mama says “Sweet dreams.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitchen-dance-interior-art-kids-caught

Image copyright Maurie J. Manning

Maurie J. Manning’s sweet story of a private moment between parents that becomes a celebration of family love offers a fresh, fun, and lively glimpse of the small events that contribute to real connectedness. Telling the story from one of the children’s point of view adds a deeper level of understanding and recognition that of the strong bond between the parents. The repeated phrase, “Cómo te quiero! How I love you!” is reassuring and allows kids to read along with the book’s most important theme.

Manning’s vivacious and vibrant illustrations bring to life the swirling energy of the text. Tito and his sister creep downstairs in a house bathed in shadow only to open the door to flashing yellow, green, purple, and orange brilliance. The scenes of Mama and Papa dancing together, using a wooden spoon as a microphone and pot lids as cymbals as well as twirling hand in hand while balancing stacks of dishes are filled with happiness, and the  picture of the two tangoing with tamales will make kids giggle. Tito and his sister are adorable as they spy on their parents with astonished looks on their faces and then join the dance.

Kitchen Dance is a joy for story time or bedtime, and in these always busy days would be a welcome reminder that carefree moments carry their own special meaning.  Kitchen Dance is a great addition to a child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 8

Clarion Books, 2008 | ISBN 978-0618991105

To learn more about Maurie J. Manning, her books, and her art, check out her website!

Take a look at the Kitchen Dance book trailer!

 

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-spoon-microphone-craft

Wooden Spoon Microphone

 

With this easy craft you can turn a wooden cooking spoon into a fun microphone for playtime or in case you ever have to sing for your supper!

Supplies

  • Long-handled wooden spoon
  • Black craft paint
  • Silver craft paint
  • Black permanent marker

Directions

  1. Paint the handle of the spoon black, let dry
  2. Paint the head of the spoon silver, let dry
  3. After the paint is dry, make rows of small dots on the head of the spoon

July 6 – National Fried Chicken Day

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About the Holiday

Fried chicken with its crispy outside and tender, juicy inside is the star of American Southern home style cooking. The tradition, brought to America by Scottish immigrants, is a favorite for summer picnics and has spawned many an on-the-go restaurant. There’s only one way to celebrate this holiday…well, maybe two—sink your teeth into some delicious fried chicken and devour today’s book!

Hensel and Gretel Ninja Chicks

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez | Illustrated by Dan Santat

 

The times, they are a’menacing. A fox is prowling and has already chicken napped Hensel and Gretel’s ma, shaking up their pa. Hensel and Gretel know just what to do—they enroll at the 3 Pigs Dojo and “they trained in the art of ninjutsu / and practiced their wing throws and blocks. / They learned how to creep / without making a peep / so they wouldn’t fall prey to that fox.” Their training proves advantageous as the day soon comes when Hensel and Gretel have to put their training into practice.

One day they return home to find that their pa has also been nabbed by the fox. While they may be chickens the sisters definitely aren’t chicken so they go in search of their pop. They drop crumbs on their trail to lead them back home, but the forest grows “twisted and tangled” and they soon discover that the breadcrumbs are gone. Bravely, they trek through the woods until they see a light. “It came from a cottage of corn bread! / ‘Let’s eat!’ Hensel clucked with delight. / She nibbled away till she heard someone say, / ‘My dear, come on in for a bite.’”

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Image copyright Dan Santat, 2016, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2016. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Caught off guard, Hensel enters the house but quickly realizes her mistake when she sees a pan in the oven. In the corner she finds her pa locked away in a crate. The fox grabs her and adds her to the crate with her dad. While she is fattening up, the fox tells her, he’ll eat another hen from his stock. That hen turns out to be Hensel and Gretel’s mom! Meanwhile, Gretel has squeezed her way through the chimney “with ninja-like silence and speed.” She frees her ma and with “one feathered sweep” blocks the fox’s advance.

The fox fights back, but Mama comes to Gretel’s rescue with a well-aimed wok just as Hensel and Papa break free. But the crate doesn’t stay empty for long: “With one wicked spin, / Hensel kicked the fox in! / ‘You’re done with your chick-frying spree!’” Back home Hensel and Gretel are congratulated, and “from then on they made it their mission / to rescue, protect and defend. / They’d work night and day / to liberate prey / till bird-napping came to an end.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hensel-and-gretel-ninja-chicks-dojo

Image copyright Dan Santat, 2016, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, 2016. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Ninja pandemonium is back! This time the martial arts are served up chicken style in Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez’s take on Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel story. All the intrigue and suspense of the original is here, but blazingly spiced and fried up with delicious puns, sizzling verbs, and some of the most riotous rhymes you’ll ever read.

Dan Santat again lends his agile artwork to the springs, spins, and stealth of the world of the dojo. Feathers fly; the fox leaps, chops, and winces; and Hensel and Gretel perform some serious Kiya! Santat’s forest is gloomy and forbidding, the air shimmers with the force of well-placed kicks, and the large close-up images put readers in the middle of the action.

Everyone from small-fries to hens and roosters will flip over Hensel and Gretel Ninja Chicks. It’s a must addition to any child’s library.

Ages 4 – 9

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0399176265 | ISBN 978-1338203868 (Paperback, 2017)

Watch Hensel and Gretel kick some tail feathers in the trailer for their book!

To discover more books by Corey Rosen Schwartz as well as fun activities and how to be a Book Ninja, visit her website.

Activities, tips, books, and more by Rebecca J. Gomez can be found on her website.

A gallery of art, list of books, and more information about Dan Santat is available on his website.

National Fried Chicken Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-craft

Turn Over a New Chicken

 

A long-handled wooden turner makes a plucky decoration for your room or kitchen! With a few simple additions, you’ll have a cute companion you’ll want to crow about!

Supplies

  • Printable Comb and Scarf Template
  • Long-handled wooded turner, available in kitchen supply stores
  • Red felt
  • Yellow bakable clay
  • Fabric, 12 inches square
  • A small piece of white felt or fleece (optional)
  • White paint (or any color you would like)
  • Black marker
  • Fabric glue
  • Glue gun
  • Paint brush

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-craft

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden turner, let dry
  2. Cut the scarf from the piece of fabric
  3. Make a beak from the yellow clay and bake it according to package directions

To make the comb

  1. Cut out the comb from the red felt
  2. Fold the felt in half and glue the end together with the fabric glue
  3. Cut short strips from the folded top of the felt, about ½-inch to ¾ -inch in length
  4. Round the corners of the strips slightly

To make the scarf

  1. Fold the fabric in half
  2. With the long, straight edge of the scarf template along the fold, cut out the scarf
  3. With the fabric glue, glue the two sides of the scarf together so that you have two “right” sides
  4. Let dry

To assemble the chicken

  1. Pinch the bottom of the comb together so that the strips open and the felt pleats a little
  2. With the glue gun attach the comb to the back of the painted turner, keeping the bottom pinched together
  3. Attach the beak to the front of the turner
  4. Draw eyes on the chicken with the black marker
  5. Tie the scarf around the neck of the handle, hold in place with a drop of glue in the back if necessary
  6. To make tail feathers in a turner with a hole in the handle, pinch together a small folded piece of white felt or fleece and push it through the hole in the handle of the turner.
  7. Cut or arrange to look like feathers

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You can find Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks at these booksellers

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