June 2 – National Leave the Office Early Day

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About the Holiday

Would you like to spend less time at the office and more at home with your kids or just relaxing with a good book or favorite hobby? Employee productivity expert Laura Stack thought most people would say yes, so in 2004 she established today’s holiday to raise awareness of adjustments and strategies workers and management can take to make the work day more efficient and productive so that people can leave on time. A better balance between work and home life has benefits for people’s health, happiness, relationships, and their job itself. 

Somewhere in the City

Written by J. B. Frank | Illustrated by Yu Leng

 

The sun has set and it’s growing late. “Somewhere in the city,” Lucy peers out her window hoping to hear her dad’s footsteps amid the “bustle of the street below.” A dog across the street barks, and Lucy calls out “‘Daddy’s coming home.’” Across town Lucy’s father turns off his computer, grabs his briefcase and jacket and says goodbye to his coworkers. He rushes through the office lobby and “Swish, Swish” spins through the revolving door and onto the street.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-Lucy

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

While she waits, Lucy watches the baker mixing dough through the plate glass window. She stirs and stirs in a big bowl. “Somewhere in the city,” Daddy hurries past a musician “playing a lullaby to the people passing by.” Some friends who are listening invite Lucy’s dad to stop and chat, but he begs off, telling them he needs to get home to tuck his little one into bed. At home, Lucy yawns and puts on her pajamas. At the bus stop, a woman also yawns after a long day. The bus finally comes, but Lucy’s dad does not get off.

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Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

“Somewhere in the city” Daddy’s been delayed. When the path finally clears, he runs toward home. He passes a street performer and thinks how much Lucy would love it. Meanwhile, Lucy stretches out her time getting ready for bed, but her mom finally taps her watch and tells her it’s time for bed. But how can Lucy go to sleep without “hearing that special something?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-carousel

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Finally, Daddy is on the train and although Lucy is in bed, she’s not sleeping. She dances to the music floating through her window from the radio in the grocery store below, she plays with her cat, and at last she hears the door open. Snuggled up with Daddy as he reads her a story, Lucy rests “her head on his chest…hears that special something,” and sighs with contentment.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-in-the-city-waiting

Image copyright Yu Leng, 2021, text copyright J. B. Frank, 2021. Courtesy of Familius.

Steeped in the sights, sounds, and pop-up events of a city and enriched by the urgency of a parent-child reunion for a daily tradition, J.B Frank’s story will delight kids and adults alike. Frank’s repeated phrase “somewhere in the city” makes the story universal while playing with pacing and enhancing Lucy’s and her father’s feelings. Children will love the back-and-forth storytelling that keeps tabs on Daddy’s progress through the city and Lucy’s attempts to delay bedtime. When Daddy finally makes it home, what Lucy has been waiting for will melt readers’ hearts.

Yu Leng’s realistic portrayals of the city share space with dreamlike whimsy in clever transitions that young readers will adore. As Lucy’s father rushes through the city, he meets up with surprising performers, a humorous delay that’s just right for little readers on their way to “counting sheep,” and other fun-living city folk. Just as charming is the view from Lucy’s window of the bakery, grocery store, bus stop and the rooms of her apartment home, all washed in a sleepy blue, punctuated by the welcoming golden glow of Lucy’s bedroom light. Lucy and her father’s facial expressions clearly show their changing emotions, and the final spreads of them sharing a special moment is heartwarming.

Enchanting, smart, and touching, Somewhere in the City would make a wonderful gift for dads anytime and especially for Father’s Day or for new dads. The book  is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Familius, 2021| ISBN 978-1641702607

Discover more about J. B. Frank and her books on her website.

You can connect with Yu Leng on Instagram.

National Leave the Office Early Day Activity

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Briefcase Craft and Dream Job Application

 

Kids will have fun pretending to be dad or mom going off to the office with this easy-to-make craft and printable Dream Job Application! 

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

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You can find Somewhere in the City at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 14 – Dance Like a Chicken Day

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About the Holiday

Time to get your fancy dancy pants on for National Dance Like a Chicken Day! National Dance Like a Chicken Day is just about as wacky as it sounds. Its purpose is to encourage people to dance like chicken or do the “Chicken Dance.” The Chicken Dance song was composed by a Swiss accordionist in the 1950s. When the song reached audiences in the US in the ‘70s, the dance moves were created to accompany the song. The dance continues to be a silly tradition to this day with records for World’s Largest Chicken Dance and World’s Longest—spanning 24 city blocks! To top it off, Celebrate Picture Books has the perfect, funky, dancing jive of a book to start off the joyous celebration.

Thanks go to West Margin Press and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Chickens on the Loose for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. We’re happy to be teaming with them on a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Chickens on the Loose

By Jane Kurtz | Illustrated by John Joseph

 

Oh no! The backyard gate is open and there are “chickens breaking loose. / Chickens on the lam. / Zipping from the yard, / as quickly as they can.” It’s a wild chicken chase, with humans trailing behind, trying and failing to stop the loose chickens. The chickens zoom and do not stop; they peek in windows, take items from shops. They do some yoga at a local studio, before grabbing some snacks at an outdoor food court fest. What a crazy, hilarious, chicken-filled mess!

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Image copyright John Joseph, 2021, text copyright Jane Kurtz, 2021. Courtesy of West Margin Press.

As the chickens “hitch a ride on skateboards / to rest their aching feet,” paint walls, and take a trip through the pet store (where they share their love of freedom with the penned-up animals), an ever-growing crowd of people race behind to try and stop them in their tracks. Throughout the story, each new member of the crowd yells, “STOP!” but the chickens pay no heed. When the chickens reach the local pet store, “‘STOP!’ shouts everybody. But the chickens will not stop. / ‘No way!” they say, “We will not stay.” It sounds like BOC BOC BOC.” 

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Image copyright John Joseph, 2021, text copyright Jane Kurtz, 2021. Courtesy of West Margin Press.

When the chasers and escapees finally collide with a giant “SPLAAAT!!!,” the chickens know it’s time to head back home. They take their tired legs and waddle through raindrops and puddles with heads hung low. When they are back at the coop, they close their eyes and take a rest. One bathes their feet, another dozes under a snazzy polka dot eye mask. They take a snooze until, “Oops! Yikes! That old mood strikes…” and the chickens are on the loose once more! 

Backmatter includes information on keeping urban chickens and general chicken facts. 

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Image copyright John Joseph, 2021, text copyright Jane Kurtz, 2021. Courtesy of West Margin Press.

Author Jane Kurtz wows us again with another read-out-loud tale perfect for youngsters. Her infectious rhymes and zippy rhythm propel the story with wit as quick as those runaway chickens. Kurtz’s vivacious vocabulary adds to the fun, and her repeated phrasing will have kids vocally joining the chase. In her bio following the story, she explains that her inspiration for the book stemmed from childhood experiences raising chickens with her family while living in Ethiopia. She aims to engage readers in a fun tale while teaching that chickens can happily live in cities and urban areas too.

John Joseph’s colorful, comedic drawings feature a diverse cast of city residents of different races, religions, ethnicities, and abilities. The girl whose chickens got loose in the first place is seen throughout the pages, leading the crowd down the streets. Joseph illustrates the neighborhood with colorful storefronts, homes, bustling crowds, and the silliest of chickens. The exaggerated body language and expressiveness of the humans and chickens throughout the book tell a story in and of themselves—from happy chickens with sandwiches and pizzas in beak to people gleefully and nervously chasing after the flock, the facial expressions add a great deal of humor to the story. 

Chickens on the Loose is a perfect edition to home collections, classrooms, and libraries. One that is sure to make readers laugh out loud, and maybe even inspire a round of the Chicken Dance!

Ages 4 – 8

West Margin Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1513267241

Jane Kurtz is an award-winning children’s book author, speaker, educator, and she is on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Children’s and YA Literature. She is a co-founder of the nonprofit Ethiopia Reads, an organization that brings books and literacy to the children in Ethiopia, where Jane grew up. She also heads the creative team of Ready Set Go Books, a project of Open Hearts Big Dreams to create fun, colorful, local language books for people in Ethiopia. She is the author of many books for children, including River Friendly River Wild, winner of the SCBWI Golden Kite award for picture book text, and What Do They Do With All That Poo?, a finalist to the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Excellence in Science Books list; it has also been named to several state reading lists, voted on by children. To learn more, you can connect with Jane on her Website | Instagram | Twitter

John Joseph is an artist, illustrator, elementary school teacher, avid gardener, and community leader. He earned a degree in visual arts from Colorado State University and a Masters from Lesley University, and has won the ACP Excellence in Publishing Award for Best Picture Book. He lives in Colorado with his wife, two sons, and a German shepherd. You can connect with John on his Website | Instagram

Chickens on the Loose Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with West Margin Press and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Chickens on the Loose written by Jane Kurtz | illustrated by John Joseph

To enter:

  • Follow Dorothy Levine
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite fun escape for extra entry 

This giveaway is open from May 13 to May 19 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 20. 

Prizing provided by West Margin Press and Blue Slip Media.

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

Dance Like a Chicken Day Activity

West-Margin-Press-chickens-on-the-loose-activity-kit

Chickens on the Loose Activity Kit

 

Download this story time kit to make chicken puppets, complete a chicken maze, check out some chicken yoga poses and more!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chickens-on-the-loose-cover

You can find Chickens on the Loose at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 30 – Arbor Day

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About the Holiday

Today is Arbor Day, a national celebration of trees that began as a campaign by J. Morton Sterling and his wife after they moved from Michigan to Nebraska in 1854. Morton advocated for the planting of trees not only for their beauty but as windbreaks for crops on the state’s flat farmland, to keep soil from washing away, as building materials, and for shade. In 1872, Morton proposed a tree-planting day to take place on April 10. On that day nearly one million trees were planted in Nebraska. The idea was made official in 1874, and soon, other states joined in. In 1882 schools began taking part. Today, most states celebrate Arbor Day either today or on a day more suited for their growing season. To learn about events in your area, find activities to download, and more, visit the Arbor Day Foundation website.

Up in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses

Written by Shira Boss | Illustrated by Jamey Christoph

 

Bob lived in New York, a city crowded with buildings, people, and vehicles. Walking along on the sidewalk, “Bob didn’t like all that rushing around, the eyes of so many people, all those feet on the ground.” He climbed whatever he could find—onto lampposts, up to his apartment building’s roof, even the wall of the castle in Central Park. At school, Bob felt hemmed in by the desks, small classrooms, and packed hallways.

Every day as soon as school let out, Bob ran to Central Park, where it was cool, calm, and uncrowded. People moved slowly there or relaxed on the green grass. The “trees waved their branches in the air, inviting him to come up.” And so he did. Bob scampered up the path made by the bark and climbed higher and higher using the ladder the trees’ limbs provided. He explored cherry trees, pine trees, beech trees, and oak trees. “Each tree was its own world, every limb an adventure.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-up-in-the-leaves-central-park

Image copyright Jamey Christoph, 2018, text copyright Shira Boss, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Through the leaves that hid him, Bob could look out over the city. It was quieter and everything looked so small. Bob decided to build himself a treehouse. With scavenged wood and rope, he built a small platform and after school he climbed up to where he could read, think, and listen to the sounds of nature. He even brought peanuts for the squirrels. But one day when he came to the park, his treehouse was gone.

So Bob built another one. This one was bigger, better hidden in the leaves, and had shelter. When rain and wind came, “Bob’s treehouse rocked and swayed—he was a sailor on a ship at sea.” But when the leaves fell in the fall, Bob’s treehouse was discovered and taken down again. In the spring, Bob constructed another treehouse. This one had a long platform and a sturdy house with walls and a roof. Bob devised a rope-and-pulley “elevator” to bring up supplies like “milk crates for tables and chairs” books, snacks, and even his friends.

When the sun went down, Bob stayed and looked at the stars and planets with a telescope he’d set up on the platform. “He became an astronaut, navigating the cosmos.” Seasons came and went and Bob grew older. Each time a treehouse was taken down, he built a bigger and better one.

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Image copyright Jamey Christoph, 2018, text copyright Shira Boss, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Bob’s mom worried that he was spending too much time up in the trees. She wanted him to get a job like everyone else. But he didn’t want to spend his time commuting on a crowded train and moving along crowded sidewalks to work in a crowded office. He didn’t want to deal with the noise and smog-filled air. “Instead, he built the biggest treehouse of all. Five levels and a bridge! Bob was very proud.” He even slept there.

One morning he awoke to voices calling up to him. The park rangers were ordering him to come down. Sadly, he descended. But the man in charge wasn’t angry. He offered Bob a job taking care of the trees. Bob enthusiastically said, “‘I would love to work here!’” Even though he couldn’t build any more treehouses, he still spent his days in the canopy of the trees, climbing up, up, up with special ropes and saddle to trim branches and make sure the trees were healthy. Sometimes at night, though, Bob still found his way to a high, leafy perch to gaze at the stars.

An Epilogue, including a picture of Bob Redman sitting on a branch of one of his beloved trees, tells more about Bob Redman, his treehouses, and what he’s doing now.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-up-in-the-leaves-mom

Image copyright Jamey Christoph, 2018, text copyright Shira Boss, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Shira Boss’s captivating true story of a boy who felt more at home in nature than in the city and grew up to care for the trees he loves is a unique story for all kids who love the adventure of their own treehouse or fort and spending time outdoors. With short staccato sentences Boss recreates the cramped in feeling Bob Redman experienced indoors and while moving through the crowded New York streets. As Bob climbs the trees, Boss’s longer, lyrical sentences echo the freedom of the peace, quiet, and slower pace of life Bob craved. His perseverance in building and rebuilding his treehouses, finally to be recognized for his special gifts will encourage kids who also forge their own path.

Jamey Christoph’s charming soft-hued illustrations take kids quickly from the tall skyscrapers and crowded sidewalks of New York City to the lovely green expanse of Central Park to watch Bob swing from the branches as he climbs higher and higher into the parks varied trees. Readers will envy his agility and view of the city. Readers can almost feel the cooler air and the warm sunshine filtered through the leaves as they turn from page to page. Christoph’s recreations of Bob’s platforms and increasingly complex treehouses will impress kids and adults alike. The final images of Bob working a job he was born to do while still enjoying the trees and the city in his own way will inspire children to stay true to what they love.

A lovely and inspiring book with a unique story that will appeal to all readers and especially those who prefer a life of quiet, thoughtful observation and creativity, Up in the Leaves is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454920717

Discover more about Shira Boss and her book, plus a discussion guide with activities on her website

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

Arbor Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Climb-a-Tree-Word-Search-Puzzle II

Climb a Tree! Word Search

 

There are so many kinds of trees that make our world beautiful. Can you find the names of twenty threes in this printable puzzle?

Climb a Tree! Word Search Puzzle | Climb a Tree! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-up-in-the-leaves-cover

You can find Up In the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 29 – It’s International Ideas Month

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About the Holiday

The onset of spring with its  wide-open sunny days seems to beckon to us to open our minds to all sorts of new possibilities. International Ideas Month also invites would-be inventors and clever folk alike to think differently and pay attention to your brainstorms. You never know – there may be a book, a work of art, a new invention, or a solution to a need inside you just waiting to be let out! 

“Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses: How James Kelly’s Nose Saved the New York City Subway

Written by Beth Anderson | Illustrated by Jenn Harney

 

James Kelly had a super sensitive nose. It seemed that there was nothing he couldn’t smell: “rats in the shed. Circus elephants a mile away. Tomorrow’s rain.” While this was interesting, James wished he had a different “super power,” one that would get him noticed. When James was older, he moved to New York and set out to find a job. But lots of jobs—like working at the fish market, the butcher shop, or the sanitation department—were just too stinky.

Then James “heard a rumble below the sidewalk and peered through the grate. The damp air bristled with mystery.” James descended below the street and discovered the subway. Here “a nick, a crack, a break, a spark could wreak havoc.” Down here, James Kelly sniffed out water and gas leaks and other problems then led repair crews to the spots. People were so impressed that soon he had “a new name: Smelly Kelly. James began studying about new equipment that could help him.

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Image copyright Jenn Harney, 2020, text copyright Beth Anderson, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

The subway wasn’t the only place having trouble with bad odors. At the Hotel New Yorker, a mysterious leak was causing guests to flee and the staff to hold their noses. Everyone blamed the subway, so the hotel manager called for Smelly Kelly. James could smell the leak, but he couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from. Using a bit of his new equipment, though, the break in the pipes exposed itself. James had found his calling.

Next, people began complaining about “toilets flushing steam” at the 42nd Street men’s room. He followed the pipes and finally found the cause, but Smelly Kelly realized that “sniffing wasn’t enough.” He needed to be able to hear problems too. But that would require a different kind of equipment—something “like a telephone or stethoscope.” James Kelly tinkered and experimented until he had created just what he needed. Every day, Smelly Kelly rid the city of leaks, toxic spills, and clogs—most unassociated with the subway at all. But one danger did lurk among the tracks: the electricity of the third rail.

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Image copyright Jenn Harney, 2020, text copyright Beth Anderson, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

One night his phone rang. It was an emergency—a “tar-like smell” was coming from underground. Smelly Kelly took one whiff and proclaimed, “‘Gasoline. One spark from the third rail and we’re all history,’” he warned. The station was evacuated and the trains slowed. Then Kelly went to work until he found the leaking storage tank. It took ten hours to make the city safe, and when it was Smelly Kelly was hailed as a “superhero.”

Smelly Kelly’s days were always different and often surprising. Once, he unearthed long-buried elephant manure, but his most dramatic save happened the day a man fell from the platform onto the tracks just as a train rolled into the station. That time Kelly’s sense of smell couldn’t help him, but his courage could. James Kelly crawled under the train car and pinned the unconscious man down and away from the electrified rail. Slowly, the train backed up over them, and when it was clear, James and the man got up. Everyone cheered. That day James Kelly discovered his real superpower: “the force that pushed him…to study, invent, and risk his life. His special power was inside.”

Backmatter includes two Author’s Notes, one revealing more about James Kelly, and the second explaining more about the research that went into writing the story. There is also a section on the tools Kelly used and some fascinating facts about what lies beneath New York City’s streets. Children will also find books and websites for further reading and a bibliography.

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Image copyright Jenn Harney, 2020, text copyright Beth Anderson, 2020. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Kids will marvel at Beth Anderson’s biography of James Kelly, his super-sensitive nose, and the New York City subway. As readers learn about James Kelly’s unique abilities, they also discover facts about the ever-growing city of the early to mid-1900s. Anderson’s suspense-filled storytelling will keep kids riveted to the action and keep them guessing at where the smells come from. Kelly’s ingenious inventions and uses of new equipment will impress future engineers and other creative kids. Anderson’s unifying theme reminds readers that everyone has the power to use their particular talents to make a difference.

Jenn Harney’s engaging illustrations capture the details and personalities of this quirky biography while also giving kids an underground tour of New York City. Kids will be fascinated to see the dark tunnels of the subway system, crowded with a maze of pipes and wiring over which James Kelly kept constant vigil. The foul aromas that lead Kelly to leaks, dangerous conditions, and other problems waft through the tunnels in ghostly green swirls. With his prominent nose, black jacket, and fedora perched on his red shock of hair, James Kelly looks like the detective he was, and his facial expressions reveal not only the strength of the odors he discovered but also the pride he took in his work.

A unique and intriguing addition to history, science, and STEM lessons for classrooms and homeschoolers as well as a captivating read for home story times, “Smelly” Kelly and his Super Senses is highly recommended for home, school, and pubic library bookshelves

Ages 7 – 10

Calkins Creek, 2020 | ISBN 978-1684373994

International Ideas Month Activity

CPB - Nose Smelling Clipart

 

It makes sense to learn about your senses! Follow your nose to fun and discovery with these two activities!

  1. Can you guess each smell in this scent-sational experiment from KidsHealth?
  2. Paint your next picture with kool-smelling watercolors with this Scratch-and-Sniff activity from Learn Create Love!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-smelly-kelly-cover

You can find “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 27 – Earth Hour

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About the Holiday

Earth Hour was organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature as a way to engage people in the discussion on climate change. First enacted in Australia in 2007, the observance has grown to include cities, businesses, corporations, and individuals world wide. For one hour – from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time – participants will turn off all unnecessary lights in a show of solidarity and commitment to protecting our earth. Among the places going dark this year are the Empire State Building, the Space Needle, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Colosseum in Rome, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Sydney Opera House, and the Eiffel Tower. One action you can take is as easy as turning off a light – as today’s book shows. To read more about the holiday, find virtual events taking place around the world, and learn how you can participate, visit earthhour.org.

Lights Out

Written by Marsha Diane Arnold | Illustrated by Susan Reagan

 

A little fox peeks out of her den. It’s night, but her surroundings are lit up as if it were noon. A Beetle hovers nearby taking in all the “House lights / Car lights / Truck lights / Street lights… / Blinking lights / Flashing lights / Blazing lights / Flickering lights.” There are lights in every color and on every structure. Fox and Beetle wonder where Darkness is—the dark of Night that invites coyotes to sing, owls to hunt, foxes to hunt, and beetles to become “more than beetles.” Perhaps, they think, Night is lost.

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Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Fox and Beetle set out to find Night. They pass a wetlands, where Frog waits in vain for darkness to lend his voice to the nighttime chorus. “Across the wide, wide world, / they search… / for the Dark of Night. / But everywhere – Lights!” Up on the mountain, Bear is waiting for the signal to hibernate, but the brightness keeps him awake. Frog and Bear join in the search for Night.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lights-Out-wandering

Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Fox and Beetle travel through forests and fields, over deserts and dunes, and across wide prairies, but don’t find Night. When they come to the seashore, they witness baby turtles hatching. Instead of scuttling toward the ocean, they’re running toward the lights of the boardwalk shops. Frog stops the little turtles then Bear, Fox, and Frog wade out into the waves and shows them the way.

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Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

The three friends swim “away from shore and lights” while Beetle and Songbird fly above. Out here, where the sky is dark, Beetle at last sparks and glows. At last the friends reach a far-away island that’s cloaked in darkness. Here “they can see…Everything…. / Mushrooms glowing / Fireflies / Moonlit garden / Shining eyes / Nighttime weavers / Webs of stars / Constellations / Venus, Mars….” Here, they find Night.

An Author’s Note discussing light pollution and its effect on animals and humans and including a resource where readers can learn more about light pollution and what we can do to help precedes the story.

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Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Marsha Diane Arnold’s affecting story about how light pollution changes animal behavior and confuses the natural order of life is a poignant appeal to today’s young environmentally conscious kids, sparking an awareness of the extent of the problem while inviting them to consider ways to restore the darkness of night so important to the health of our planet. Through non-rhyming, yet lyrical language, Arnold takes readers on a journey to find Night. As the friends search place after place, children come to understand that light pollution is a worldwide issue.

Arnold’s capitalization of Night and Darkness makes them characters in the story as well, imbued with living traits and purpose that are just as crucial to wildlife as food and shelter. In one powerful combination of text and illustration, a list of light sources streams from corner to corner in a beam of white light. The number of examples builds to create a glaring realization of all the types of lights that keep the world turned on twenty-four hours a day. After reading Lights Out, children and adults will find themselves paying attention to the lights around them and even in and near their own home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Lights-Out-lights-on

Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Susan Reagan’s stunning illustrations of cities, waterways, and even out-of-the-way places bathed in a permanent twilight by street lamps, headlights, lighted windows, neon signs, and more are compelling reminders of just how pervasive light pollution is. As the animals wander from place to place looking for Night, their weary and distressed expressions reflect the loss of their natural nocturnal activities. When Beetle and Fox and their friends reach the distant island, Reagan’s gorgeous spreads of a star-and-moonlit sky and vegetation, in which nocturnal animals hunt, luminescent flowers glow, and spider webs glint will have readers taking a nighttime jaunt to discover what they can see in their surroundings.

A unique and important book that raises awareness not only about light pollution but about natural cycles of sleep and wakefulness, Lights Out would be an excellent addition to lessons in science and the environment and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 8

Creative Editions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1568463407

Discover more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books on her website.

To learn more about Susan Reagan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Earth Hour Activity

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Image copyright Susan Reagan, 2020, text copyright Marsha Diane Arnold, 2020. Courtesy of Creative Editions.

Lights Out Activity Kit

 

This extensive Activity Kit gives teachers, homeschoolers, and parents many ways to engage with Lights Out in the disciplines of science, language arts, art, and social action. Through the various activities, children will learn about light pollution and its effects as well as about the ways in which darkness benefits wildlife. You can download the kit from Marsha Diane Arnold’s website:

Lights Out Activity Kit

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You can find Lights Out at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 1 – National Reading Month Book Tour Launch for Agnes’s Place

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About the Holiday

National Reading Month is a book-lover’s delight! With thirty-one whole days where taking extra time to read is not only allowed but encouraged can send one hurrying out to the bookstore or library to stock up! Kids love being read to, and setting aside time to read together every day builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is officially marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities that bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids. This year look for virtual events and make a plan with your kids to find new and old favorites books to share. 

Thanks to Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Agnes’s Place for review consideration. All opinions are my own.  I’m happy to be teaming with Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Agnes’s Place

Written by Marit Larsen | Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie | Translated by Kari Dickson

 

In a city of “so many buildings,” Agnes lives on a neat little street where the trolley passes by and a café and corner grocery welcome their customers. In her apartment building, Agnes “knows she is at home before she even opens her eyes in the morning. She knows who is baking, who is playing, and who is saying shush.” When she opens her window, the birds come for the seeds she feeds them because “she knows that the birds are hungry and that she is the only one who remembers.” Agnes knows about all of the residents of her building and especially “what it is like to be the only child in a place full of adults who never have time.”

One day when she looked out her window at the rain coming down, she noticed a girl standing next to her favorite puddle with a tall pile of boxes and belongings. Agnes wondered if she was moving in. She watched through the peephole in her door as the girl and adults carried boxes and bags up the stairs to the fifth floor. Excited, Agnes drew a large picture of the swings outside the building, and she wrote an invitation—“HERE”—with an arrow. Then, when things were quiet, she went upstairs and slid it through the letter box, where it came to rest under a chest of drawers. Agnes skipped down the stairs. “She felt her heart pounding in her cheeks and ears.” But, later, she sat on the swing alone, which felt lonelier than playing on the swings by herself.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2021, text copyright Marit Larsen, 2021. Translation by Kari Dickson, 2021. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing.

When Agnes woke up the next day, she felt that everything was the same… but completely different. When she went to the window to feed the birds, they flew past her and up toward the new girl’s window. Later, Agnes practiced new tricks on the swing. After that, she played with her toys while she watched the new girl on the swing. Her home “was somehow a new place now,” and all she could think about was the new girl: did she hear and see the same things Agnes did?

Every day, Agnes waited by the swings until it was time to go in. The new girl discovered Agnes’s puddle by herself. She did a lot of fun things, and if she saw Agnes at the market, Agnes couldn’t tell because she walked right by. When Agnes went to get Emilia’s newspaper from the mailbox to deliver as she did every day, she found the box empty. And when she went to visit Emilia, she found Emilia already doing the crossword puzzle.

Agnes ventured: “‘it is a bit strange, isn’t it, that you can just move into a place without asking everyone who lives there if they think it’s okay?’” Emilia said, “‘Well, now—we’ve all been new at one time or another. Even me.’” Then Emilia offered her a waffle, but Agnes thought “a waffle is not much comfort when you are five and have no secrets left to share.”

But coming downstairs, Agnes was suddenly face to face with the new girl. They were the same size and “both just as quiet.” Agnes’s sweater matched the new girl’s hat, and when Anna opened her hands the marbles inside glowed as if “she had the whole universe in the palm of her hand.” They laughed together as the marbles flowed down the stairs like waves. Then Anna grabbed Agnes’s hand and led her upstairs to the roof, where Agnes had never been before but which Anna had transformed with birdhouses and little lights, and they had a picnic of waffles and hot chocolate. “It turned out that Anna had her own secrets. And they were wild and wonderful.”

Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage children to read from a wide range of cultural perspectives. Agnes’s Place was originally published in Norway.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2021, text copyright Marit Larsen, 2021. Translation by Kari Dickson, 2021. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing.

Marit Larsen has written a complex and thought-provoking story about making new friends and the nature of friendship, about loneliness, a sense of loss, and feelings of discovery. As the only child in the apartment building, Agnes has been left to make her own way and find her own entertainment and routines—her secrets. She is excited to see a new girl moving in and immediately invites her to play. But when her picture goes unseen and Agnes’s secrets are one-by-one discovered and, in some cases, “taken” by Anna, Larsen introduces the idea of how mixed signals, disappointments, and unfulfilled expectations can affect one’s own sense of self and place in the world.

Of course, Anna doesn’t know about Agnes and can’t know that the puddle, the swings, the birds, and Emilia’s newspaper have been “hers,” and in one illustration Anna can be seen as lonely too. When Agnes and Anna finally meet up and they realize that they are alike in many ways, they quickly become friends, and together they can their world more “wild and wonderful.” The events in the story give readers and adults excellent opportunities to discuss commonly felt emotions surrounding friendships and new experiences and what someone could and/or would do in similar situations.

In her gorgeous matte illustrations rendered in soothing hues, Jenny Løvlie creates a charming neighborhood and apartment building, in which cutaways show Agnes’s neighbors baking, reading, and tinkering in their own apartments. Through snapshot images Løvlie shows the disconnect between Agnes and Anna, and clearly shows how Agnes’s initial excitement at making a friend turns to sadness and uncertainty when her invitation goes unanswered and her comforting daily routine is seemingly usurped.

The moment when Agnes and Anna meet, however, is infused with acceptance, understanding, and promise. The final two spreads in which Anna and Agnes climb to the roof and have a picnic are stunning for their color and the magic they inspire. Kids and adults will want to linger over each page to soak up all of the details that are so true to home life as well as the whimsical antics of a pair of mice. Readers will also love to point out all of the cats and other animals that appear throughout the pages.

A heartfelt and lovely story about new friendships and growing up set in a vibrant apartment community, Agnes’s Place would be a captivating addition to home, school, and public libraries for thoughtful story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542026758

Marit Larsen is a Norwegian songwriter and musician. Agnes’s Place, her debut picture book, was first published in Norway and will also be published in Denmark and Italy. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. You can learn more about the author at www.maritlarsen.com and on Instagram: larsenmarit

Jenny Løvlie is a Norwegian illustrator. Her previous picture book, The Girls, written by Lauren Ace, was the winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. She currently lives in Cardiff, Wales. You can connect with Jenny Løvlie at www.lovlieillustration.com and on Instagram: lovlieillustration.

Kari Dickson is a literary translator from Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2020 she won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for best children’s translation for Brown, written by Håkon Øvreås and illustrated by Øyvind Torseter. She holds a BA in Scandinavian studies and an MA in translation.

Agnes’s Place Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Agnes’s Place written by Marit Larsen | illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite childhood book for extra entry

This giveaway is open from March 1 to March 7 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 8. 

Prizing provided by Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-agnes's-place-cover

You can find Agnes’s Place at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 15 – It’s Library Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

For bibliophiles, this may be the best month of the year! Not only does your local library have shelves stacked with books, magazines, movies, and music of every kind, it offers comfy chairs, fascinating lectures, kids programs, and more! While this year most libraries have been closed for in-person visits or offered shorter hours, the librarians and staff have worked hard to offer curbside service and devise ways to provide the same types of programming and services patrons love and need. This month be sure to take part in some of the activities librarians have planned for you! 

Where Is Our Library? A Story of Patience & Fortitude

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Stevie Lewis

 

At the stroke of midnight lions Patience and Fortitude woke from their slumber, left their pedestals, and crept into the New York Public Library for their nightly story time. But when they walked through the doors of the Children’s Room to find that all of the books were gone. They ran down the street, hiding in the shadows, to a street blazing with lights. “Fortitude yelled, ‘See the lights? Look up there! / That’s where the books have been taken.’ But when they arrived in the heart of Times Square, / He realized that he’d been mistaken.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-our-library-midnight

Image copyright Stevie Lewis, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co.

Fortitude was embarrassed by his mistake, but then Patience had an idea. They entered Central Park, passing by fountains, the zoo, and a carousel, through a tunnel, and around a pond. Then Fortitude spied a statue with a mad hatter, a rabbit, a Cheshire cat, and a little girl. While the hatter just offered a riddle, Alice pointed them in the direction of a man with a duck, where they might find an answer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-our-library-doorway

Image copyright Stevie Lewis, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co.

They met Hans Christian Andersen, awake from his stony nap, and told him about the missing books. He gave the lions a list of other libraries to check. They loped through the city rom Harlem and Washington Heights to the Upper East Side and Lower Manhattan. “They scoured each library, scanned every stack, / And pored through each awesome collection. / They found some new books, but they wanted theirs back! / Where was their old children’s section?”

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Image copyright Stevie Lewis, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co.

In the Chatham Square Library, a dragon kite hanging from the ceiling suggested a new perspective, so they took to the High Line and looked here and there, but the sun was beginning to dawn. “Their library lost. Their quest was now ending. / They hurried back home feeling blue.” But when they got close to their home—in fact right across the street—they saw two new signs: “Children’s and Teen Center! Opens Today! and “Newly Renovated Children’s Center.” Thrilled, Patience and Fortitude went inside and happily found books to read. The next morning, the lions thought about their nighttime jaunt and “were thrilled with their city-wide tour, / For finding new worlds is a treat.”

Facts about Patience and Fortitude and the New York Public Library as well as information on the statues, the libraries, and the new Children’s and Teen Center of the New York Public Library follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-where-is-our-library-Times-Square

Image copyright Stevie Lewis, 2020, text copyright Josh Funk, 2020. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co.

Kids who have been sad to see their children’s rooms close for in-person visits this year will empathize with Patience and Fortitude when they wake up expecting to enjoy their nightly story time only to find no books on the shelves. Readers will love joining the two New York Public Library lions as Josh Funk takes them on a rhyming jaunt through the city from Times Square to Central Park to the High Line park. They visit many of the city’s libraries and finally find themselves inside the new Children’s and Teen Center. Readers will have fun imagining the statues of Hans Christian Andersen and the characters from Alice in Wonderland coming to life and talking with the lions.

Stevie Lewis invites kids on this literary tour of New York with her beautiful illustrations. Gorgeously lit, Lewis’s after-dark images reflect the excitement of the city that never sleeps. Readers get to see the seals in the zoo, the famous carousel, the big chess board, and the duck pond as Patience and Fortitude wend their way through Central Park. As the lions visit several libraries, children will enjoy comparing their décor with that of their library’s Children’s Room. Kids will be wowed at the stately architecture of New York that Lewis reproduces faithfully throughout the pages. In Times Square and on the library shelves, kids will have fun pointing out familiar plays and favorite picture books.

An enchanting tour through New York City for book lovers, Where Is Our Library is a charming sequel to Josh Funk’s and Stevie Lewis’s Lost in the Library and will excite kids to visit their own libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Co., 2020 | ISBN 978-1250241405

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books on his website.

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

Library Lovers Month Activity

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Kids in the Library Find the Differences Puzzle

 

While your library may always look the same, it’s different every time you visit. New materials have been put on the shelves and books, movies, and magazines that were there last time have been checked out. Can you find the differences in these two pictures of kids in the library? Then have fun coloring it!

Kids in the Library Puzzle

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You can find Where Is Our Library? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review