January 18 – National Thesaurus Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that most marvelous, stupendous, spectacular, cool, awe-inspiring, remarkableand—one from my early youth—groovy book, the thesaurus! Without its incredible cross-referenced lists of synonyms and antonyms, the world would be much more boring, dull, lackluster, monotonous place. Today, spice up your speech and writing with the perfect word to express all the nuances of life!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

While just a young child, Peter, along with his mother, his uncle, and his baby sister Annette, travel to their new home following the death of his father. It would not be his first move, and in the absence of long-time friends, Peter found companionship in books. When he was eight years old, he began writing his own book titled: Peter, Mark, Roget. His Book. But this was not a book of stories or even one story; it was a book of lists. The first list was divided in two. On one side were the Latin words he knew; on the other were their definitions.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-peter-starts-his-book

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Peter’s mother hovered and worried over her son, and he always told her he was “fine.” “Although, to be honest, Peter thought, fine wasn’t quite the right word.” As the years went by, Peter added lists to his book, prompting his mother to complain about his constant “scribbling.” But Peter looked at his lists differently. “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them in long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.”

As a teenager Peter was shy, preferring to wander the London gardens alone, “making lists of all the plants and insects,” as in one of his favorite science books by Linnaeus. His “mother didn’t approve, and Peter told her not to worry—but “perhaps worry wasn’t quite the right word. What was the right word? Peter began a new list: Worry, fret, grieve, despair, intrude, badger, annoy, plague, provoke, harass. Enough to drive one mad. How wonderful it felt to find just the right word.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-fine

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

An idea crept into Peter’s mind for a book where “all the ideas in the world could be found in one place,” and people could “find the best word, the one that really fit.” When Peter was 14 he entered medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon graduation at 19, his uncle told him that patients would be wary of a doctor so young. To gain a bit of experience and maturity, Peter became a tutor to two teenage boys.

At last Peter set up his medical practice in Manchester, England, where he took care of the factory workers, who “were poor and often sick.” At night Peter worked on his book of lists, and in 1805 he declared it finished. “It had about one hundred pages, one thousand ideas, and listed more than fifteen thousand words!” Eventually, Peter moved back to London where he joined science societies and attended lectures. “Before long, he was asked to give lectures too,” and once-shy Peter astonished his audiences with his knowledge of math, magnetism, and other scientific subjects. He even invented a portable chess set.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-mother-worries

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

When Peter was 45 years old, he married Mary Hobson, and they had two children, Kate and John. As he grew older, he visited fewer patients, but he continued to take walks and work on his lists. While some other writers had published their own word lists to help people “to speak and to write more politely,” Kate and John “thought their father’s book was much better. Peter agreed.” For three years he rewrote his book. “He made it larger, more organized, and easier to use. Long ago Peter had discovered the power of words. Now he believed that everyone should have this power—everyone should be able to find the right word whenever they needed it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-lecturing

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

“In 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus, a word that means ‘treasure house’ in Greek.” It was an instant best seller, and Peter became a popular author. But he never stopped making lists.

Following the text, a timeline of principal events in Peter’s life as well as world events allow readers to better understand the historical period in which Peter worked. Extensive Author’s and Illustrator’ Notes also expand on Roget’s biography, and resources for further reading and research are included.

Jen Bryant’s biography of a brilliant boy who grew up to give the world its most fascinating and comprehensive collection of word lists, is a spritely telling of Roget’s life and revelation into his personality, which was perfectly suited to his scientific and written accomplishments. Children will appreciate Roget’s reactions to his mother’s worries as well as the message in his well-rounded pursuit of science and writing. Through Bryant’s captivating and lyrical storytelling, children will be inspired by Roget’s journey from shy child to much-accomplished adult.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-at-home

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet beguiles readers with her mixed media, collage, and watercolor illustrations that are as jam-packed with ideas, images, portraits, and typography as Roget’s thesaurus is full of words. In the early pages describing Peter’s childhood, the pages contain simple framed pictures of Roget and his family. As he grows, however, his lists of words are transformed into vibrant artwork that jostles for position from corner to corner of the pages. In the midst of these, delicate watercolors portray Peter as he strolls through a garden, takes his young charges to Paris, treats his patients, lectures, marries, and finally publishes his thesaurus. A special mention must be made of the typography, which at times in the text runs down the center of the page in one- or two-word lines, mirroring Roget’s love of lists, and in the illustrations presents the myriad synonyms in a mixture of colorful block letters, fine print, and calligraphy.

For bibliophiles, wordsmiths, scientists, and history buffs, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is just the right book for home libraries.

Ages 6 – 18

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0802853851

Discover more about Jen Bryant and her books as well as news, contests, and events, visit her website!

Learn more about Melissa Sweet and her books and have fun with the downloadable activities you’ll find on her website!

Watch this The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus book trailer!

Thesaurus Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-synonyms-word-search

Word Words Word Search Puzzle

 

When you’re looking for just the right word, where do you go? To the thesaurus of course! Can you find the 25 synonyms for “Word” in this printable Word Words Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-cover

You can find The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 7 – Old Rock Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-rock-is-lively-cover

About the Holiday

Do you love rocks? Are your eyes captured by the colors and patterns on the stones you see while out walking? Today’s holiday celebrates these wonders of nature and encourages geologists—both professionals and amateurs—to indulge their passion and maybe even teach others about the history and formation of rocks. To celebrate, take a walk in your area or even in your own backyard, pick up a few rocks, and research a little more about them.

A Rock is Lively

Written by Dianna Hutts Aston | Illustrated by Sylvia Long

 

Open the cover of A Rock is Lively and before the text—even before the title—readers are treated to an array of fifty-one gemstones that dazzle the eyes. How enticing to learn about all of these natural works of art! “A rock is lively…” the text begins, arching over a shining piece of snowflake obsidian—an ebony-colored rock dotted with lacy blots. These lively rocks bubble “like a pot of soup deep beneath the earth’s crust…liquid…molten…boiling.” How hot does it need to be to melt a rock? Anywhere “between 1,300 and 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit (700 and 1,300 degrees Celsius).”

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Image copyright Sylvia Long, 2012, text copyright Dianna Hutts Aston, 2012. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

What happens at these temperatures? Well, like your favorite cookie recipe, “a rock is mixed up. All rocks are made of a mix of ingredients called minerals.” Take the recipe for Lapis Lazuli, for instance: “Mix the mineral lazurite with a dash of sodalite and a pinch of both calcite and pyrite. Heat within the earth until a brilliant blue.”

Rocks don’t exist just here on earth. Rocks are also galactic. “Outer space is a shower of rocky fireworks” made of meteoroids, comets, and asteroids. You’ll learn the differences among them here too. You probably already know that rocks are old, but how old? Billions of years old! “The oldest rocks ever found are nearly 4.5 billion years old.” Rocks are “huge…and tiny.” They are as big as a mountain reaching for the sky and as small as the grains underneath your feet.

“A rock is helpful.” Animals use rocks in many amazing ways. Some birds swallow stones to help with digestion, and some sea creatures ingest them to help keep them balanced in the water. Other animals use rocks to crack open shellfish and nuts so they can get to the goodness inside. Some rocks look plain on the outside but hold a beautiful surprise inside. Some rocks are full of colorful rainbows, others look like a starry night sky, while still others look like a white chrysanthemum or a red-and-green watermelon.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-rock-is-lively-galactic

Image copyright Sylvia Long, 2012, text copyright Dianna Hutts Aston, 2012. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

From humans’ earliest days rocks have been chiseled into arrow heads and spear points, axe blades, and hammers. They’ve become mortars and pestles and are ground up today to “make cement and bricks, paper and pencils, glass, and toothpaste.” But rocks aren’t only useful, they’re creative too. Ancient peoples made paints from minerals and created colorful “pictographs on cave walls, rock shelters, and ledges.” Petroglyphs were made by chipping and pecking away at rock surfaces. As civilizations developed, so did their buildings and artwork made from stone. The pyramids were made from limestone, Stonehenge is formed from “sandstone, dolerite, and others,” the Taj Mahal and Michelangelo’s “David” are marble marvels, and Mt. Rushmore was carved from Granite.

“A rock is recycled.” Formed in three different ways, rocks are categorized as sedimentary, metamorphic, or igneous. “Over thousands of millions of years, [a rock] changes from one form to another. This is called the rock cycle,” and it keeps rocks very lively!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-rock-is-lively-surprising

Image copyright Sylvia Long, 2012, text copyright Dianna Hutts Aston, 2012. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Dianna Hutts Aston’s inventively and conversationally accessible discussion of the rocks that make up our earth and universe will enthrall any rock hound or entice the curious. Aston’s lead-in heads make for clear classification of and intriguing introductions to the various types of rocks, how they’re formed, what they look like, and how they’ve been used through history.  Her pages contain short, but very informative paragraphs that teach children about rocks through time and size comparisons they’ll understand, descriptions with familiar references, and evocative verbs and adjectives. Aston’s dynamic look at this subject will excite kids to learn more.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-rock-is-lively-snowflake-obsidian

Image copyright Sylvia Long, 2012, text copyright Dianna Hutts Aston, 2012. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Accompanying Aston’s text are Sylvia Long’s stunning illustrations that open readers eyes to the incredible beauty of each type of rock. To begin, young readers see a cut away of the rock layers beneath earth’s crust as well as the rocks that shoot across the sky. Aston shows animals using rocks in a myriad of ways as well as the tools, art, and buildings created by humans throughout history. The showstoppers are her depictions of the interior of different types of geodes, with their electric blues, reds, purples, and oranges and figures that lend the rocks their names. The double-spread pages containing fifty-one rocks with their name that introduce and end the book are a young geologist’s dream come true and will send them scurrying to discover and collect them all.

A fantastic reference, A Rock is Lively makes a terrific addition to home and classroom libraries  or a gift (pair it with a geode or small boxed rock collection) for young nature lovers and scientists.

Ages 7 – 12

Chronicle Books, 2012 (Hardcover; 2015 Paperback) | ISBN 978-1452106458

Discover more about Dianna Hutts Aston and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sylvia Long, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Old Rock Day Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rock This Craft!

 

Smooth stones can give you a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

To make magnets

  1. Design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
  3. Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board

To make jewelry

  1. Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
  3. Wear your pin proudly

To make a paper weight

  1. Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Let dry
  3. Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-rock-is-lively-cover

You can find A Rock is Lively at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 13 – International Rock Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday recognizes the importance and beauty of the rock that forms solid ground under our feet and soars majestically to meet the sky. From earliest times, rock has been used as building material—and even the tools to build with—and has provided us with valuable gemstones that beautify our lives. Geology and archaeology are just two of the sciences that explore the wonders of stone—what it is composed of and what secrets it keeps. Today, be more mindful of the rocks around you and take a closer look at the intricate patterns that lie within them.

Rocks in His Head

Written by Carol Otis Hurst | Illustrated by James Stevenson

 

Carol Otis Hurst tells the story of her father, who—even when he was a boy—loved everything to do with rocks. He collected them and in his spare time walked “along stone walls and around old quarries, looking for rocks.” Everyone said “he had rocks in his pockets and rocks in his head,” and he had to agree. When he thought about what he wanted to do when he grew up, he imagined it would have something to do with rocks, and when he was told “‘There’s no money in rocks,’” he was okay with that. In the end, though, he opened a gas station in Springfield, Massachusetts with his father’s help. He called it the Antler Filling Station.

In the back of the filling station, Carol’s father displayed his rock and mineral collection. “He carefully labeled each rock to show what kind it was and where it had come from.” When the Model T automobile came out, more people could afford to buy a car. Carol’s father learned every inch of the Model T by taking it apart and reassembling it many times. He thought that someone who could repair the car and sell spare parts would have a good business, so he began collecting parts for the Model T—so many that “the pile of parts was bigger than the filling station.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-stone-wall

Image copyright James Stevenson, 2001, text copyright Carol Otis Hurst, 2001. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Most people in town said he “had rocks in his head” if he thought he would sell all those parts, but pretty soon drivers were flocking to the Antler Filling Station for gas and fixes to their cars. They also came inside to see the rocks, ask questions, and hear the stories of each rock and gemstone. Then the stock market crashed and people didn’t have the money for gas or to fix their cars. Things slowed down at the Antler, and when things were really slow, Carol, her father, and her friends would pile into their Model T and go searching for more rocks.

But while the collection at the filling station grew, people stopped coming because they were all out looking for jobs. Soon the Antler Filling Station closed and the family had to move to a new house. The house was falling apart, but Carol’s father began repairing it—after building shelves in the attic for his rock collection. When he wasn’t repairing the house, he was studying more about rocks. Along the way, he looked for work, taking any job he could even if they only lasted a day or two.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-antler-filling-station

Image copyright James Stevenson, 2001, text copyright Carol Otis Hurst, 2001. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

On days when he had no work, Carol’s father went to the Springfield Science Museum, where “they had a whole room full of glass cases containing many rocks. Sometimes he’d spend the whole day in that room.” One day, he met a woman who asked him what he was looking for. He answered “‘I’m looking for rocks that are better than mine.’” Out of the hundreds of rocks in that room, he told her, he’d only found ten, “‘maybe eleven,’” that were better. They smiled at each other.

Then the lady introduced herself as Grace Johnson, the director of the museum. “‘These rocks have come from all over the world,’” she told him, and he said that his had too. She wanted to see his collection, and so they drove out in her big car. Carol’s father showed her up to the attic. After looking around, she told him that while the board of directors wouldn’t allow her to hire him as a mineralogist because he lacked a college degree, she did need a night janitor. When he heard that the job sometimes included cleaning rocks, he took it.

One day, Mrs. Johnson discovered him correcting a label on one of the rocks. She smiled and told him that she had told the board of directors that she needed “‘somebody with rocks in his head and rocks in his pockets.’” Then she asked, “‘Are you it?’ Maybe I am,’” Carol’s father answered. “‘Maybe I am.’” And he was!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-antler-filling-station-shelves

Image copyright James Stevenson, 2001, text copyright Carol Otis Hurst, 2001. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

Carol Otis Hurst’s lovely and affectionate memoir of her father offers young readers a snapshot of history while introducing them to a man who stayed true to himself and his life-long love of rocks despite obstacles and good-natured jibes by those around him. Hurst’s easy-going, conversational storytelling represents her father well, allowing children to get a feel for his personality and steady outlook on life. His acceptance as a mineralogist (and ultimate position as director of the Springfield Science Museum as told in the author’s bio on the jacket flap) will satisfy readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-rock-samples

James Stevenson’s familiar watercolor-and-ink illustrations are infused with charm, taking children beside an old stone wall that meanders through the woods, back to old-style filling stations and Model-T cars, and into the heart of a true collector. Images of the author’s father attentively setting up his collection in the filling station and later in the attic will resonate with any young collectors reading the book, and the full-page illustration of Grace Johnson and the author’s father talking and smiling together is happy validation that kindred spirits do cross paths in life.

For children who love collecting, history, museums, and biographies, Rocks in His Head is a delightful choice for home libraries and would make am appealing lead in to science lessons or museum field trips for elementary classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, 2001 | ISBN 978-0060294038

International Rock Day Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rock This Craft!

 

Smooth stones can give you a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

To make magnets

  1. Design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
  3. Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board

To make jewelry

  1. Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
  3. Wear your pin proudly

To make a paper weight

  1. Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Let dry
  3. Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocks-in-his-head-cover

You can find Rocks in His Head at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 21 – National Entrepreneurs’ Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2010, today’s holiday celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit that is alive and well in so many people and that helps advance knowledge and technology, solve problems, and make life better. The third Tuesday of November has been set aside to honor those thinkers and inventors of the past as well as to encourage those now working to see their ideas come to fruition. With their supple minds and unique way of looking at the world, children are natural entrepreneurs, as today’s book shows!

Norton and Alpha

By Kristyna Litten

 

Norton was a very particular kind of collector. He loved finding the kinds of things most people threw away. “Battered wheels, rusty cogs, broken springs…and best of all were the things Norton didn’t have a name for.” Nearly everywhere he went, Norton found useful things. He took them all home and “made the most amazing inventions.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-lab

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day Norton found a little springy thing that he added “to his latest project.” It was the perfect final touch, and Norton named his invention Alpha. Alpha accompanied Norton on all of his hunts, following “his little robot nose down unknown paths.” He was small enough to get into all those places Norton couldn’t reach—ones where amazing items lurked.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-collecting-things

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day “Alpha’s nose felt slightly odd. It tickled and tingled and led him to something very unusual.” Norton had no idea what it was, but he took it along home. In his workshop he tested it in all of his usual ways, but this object didn’t react in any way familiar. In fact, the longer Norton had it, the less useful it appeared to be until Norton finally threw it out the window. As it fell it scattered bits of itself all over the ground.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-finding-flower

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

As Norton and Alpha cleaned up, “they found a little round something their mysterious discovery had left behind.” Norton placed it in a jar just in case. The next day rain kept Norton and Alpha indoors, and the next day after that it was too hot to go out. Friday turned out to be just right, so Norton “oiled their joints and got everything ready for a long day’s collecting.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-flower-thrown-out

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When they opened the doors they were greeted by the most beautiful, colorful sight. Norton and Alpha ran and played in the field and collected samples of all “the blue, pink, and orange things.” At home Norton didn’t experiment on them or even try to figure out what they were. Instead, he just used them to decorate his shelves, pipes, boxes, and bins because they “made him smile.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-playing-in-field

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Kristyna Litten’s inventive story of a little robot who loves to tinker and collect odd objects and his constant companion, Alpha, will charm children who are always intrigued by the unknown and ready to incorporate found objects into their world. The idea that industrious efforts can coexist with the simple enjoyment of the earth’s beauty may inspire kids and adults to also appreciate those special “found moments” that can bring much happiness to life.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-going-down-pipe

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Litten’s Norton and Alpha are adorable friends, inviting little readers into their lab, where kids will love lingering over the gears, dials, machines, and shelves stacked with recognizable springs, tacks, nails, washers, hooks, hinges and other items. Readers will “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” when Norton and Alpha open their doors—accomplished through a marvelous double gate-fold spread—and the once-bleak landscape has been transformed into a gorgeous field by the flowers Norton has helped to grow. Children will also enjoy following what happens to the little seed Norton has saved as it is watered by an undetected leak in a nearby bottle and germinated on that very hot day.

With its cute illustrations and inspiring story, Norton and Alpha would be a much-asked-for book on any child’s home bookshelf and a terrific lead-in to inventive classroom playtimes or units.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454924999

Discover more about Kristyna Litten, her art, and her books on her blog.

National Entrepreneur’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-inventor's-box

Inventor’s Box

 

For young inventors or tinkerers, having bits and pieces and some tools to work with all stored in one place encourages creative thinking. Filling the drawers of a tool case, a tool box, or a tackle box with items like springs, brads, wheels, hinges, plastic piping, pieces of wood, glue, tape, and simple tools can spark a child’s imagination. Take your child along to the craft or hardware store and choose items together!

Picture Book Review

June 13 – It’s National Camping Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rhoda's-rock-hunt-cover

About the Holiday

Early summer is the perfect time to plan a camping trip. There are so many beautiful out-of-the-way places to explore from a camper or a tent. Spending quality time with friends or family on a hike or around a campfire can be surprising, low-tech fun that can challenge and exhilarate. 

Rhoda’s Rock Hunt

Written by Molly Beth Griffin | Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell

 

Rhoda goes camping with her Auntie June and Uncle Jonah. On a days-long hike, her shower was a “bucket of cold lake water, dinner was salami and cheese, and her bed was a skinny little pad and ratty sleeping bag.” But Rhoda puts up with it all because along the way she finds rocks—and Rhoda loves rocks.

Auntie June doesn’t mind Rhoda’s collecting rocks—as long as she carries them in her own pack. Rhoda agrees. One day while hiking through a birch forest Rhoda spies “jagged rocks and bumpy rocks and one with tiny sparkly bits that glinted in the dappled sunlight. Ooo!” Rhoda puts them all in her pack and trudges on, sweating a bit with the effort.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rhoda's-rock-hunt-crossing stream

Image copyright Jennifer A. Bell, courtesy of jenniferabell.com

The next day while crossing a stream, Rhoda reaches into the cool, flowing water and comes up with a bunch of smooth stones. One has “a curve that fit into her palm just right. Ooo! Into the pack they all went—Yarg!” Rhoda is beginning to slump under the weight of her pack, but she continues on. After a sleepless night, Rhoda is tired, hungry, dirty, and a little bit crabby—until she sees the lake. “Waves crashed on the shore, and gulls called overhead. The water stretched out to the horizon, and the beach was covered with millions and billions of rocks!”

Rhoda lies on the “sun-warmed treasures,” studying the beauty of each stone. She finds red ones, blue ones, and stripy ones. “Then she discovered tiny banded ones that glowed the color of sunsets. Ooo!” She pours them all into her pack. When Auntie June and Uncle Jonah tell her it’s time to go, Rhoda grabs her pack, but it stays put. She pushes, pulls, and tugs, but the bag doesn’t budge. With no one to help carry her pack or any of the rocks, Rhoda has a hard decision to make. She doesn’t want to give up any of her stones, but she knows she must.

Then she has an idea. Carefully working “with the weight of each rock, with the curves and bumps and bulges of each rock,” she stacks them on a flat slab of stone near the water’s edge until they all “balanced in perfect towers.” Well, almost all. Into her pockets “went the one glinting forest rock, and the one palm-snuggling river rock, and a small handful of tiny glowing agates from the Big Lake.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rhoda's-rock-hunt-making-cairns

Image copyright Jennifer A. Bell, courtesy of jenniferabell.com

As she heads on her way she looks back at her rock cairns—her gift to others passing by—and continues on with Auntie June and Uncle Jonah to the cabin. There, on her windowsill, she builds her own cairns from her beloved treasures.

Collectors everywhere will relate to Rhoda and her enthusiastic gathering of treasures beyond price. Each one is unique and almost calls out to be taken along life’s road. As Rhoda discovers, however, the physical items can begin to weigh you down, impeding progress. Molly Beth Griffin, in her distinctive and quietly powerful book, remind readers that freedom and happiness come from sharing your talents and treasures—and yourself—with others. With evocative description of a camping trip (and well-placed expressions of “Ooo!”), Griffin captures with honesty, grace, and humor the vexations and thrills of childhood.

Jennifer A. Bell gorgeously depicts the forest with its birch stands, rushing streams, vast lake, and variety of stones in soft greens, reds, purples, and blues that blend to reflect the depth and beauty of nature. Adorable Rhoda expresses the range of emotions—from excitement in finding her beloved rocks to annoyance at the travails of camping—that readers will recognize and respond to. Detailed illustrations of the rocks Rhoda finds reveal their attraction to the young collector, and the final spread of the cairns Rhoda builds will have kids wanting to build their own.

A wonderful accompaniment to a hike or camping trip and a quietly inspirational read, Rhoda’s Rock Hunt would make a welcome addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0873519502

To see more books by Molly Beth Griffin for children and young adults, visit her website!

View Jennifer A. Bell’s illustration work for picture books, chapter books, and more on her website!

National Camping Month Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rock This Craft!

 

Around a campsite or on a hike you can find smooth stones that would give talented artists like yourself a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

To make magnets

  1. Design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
  3. Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board

To make jewelry

  1. Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
  3. Wear your pin proudly

To make a paper weight

  1. Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Let dry
  3. Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place

Picture Book Review

May 15 – Straw Hat Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-fannie's-hat-cover

About the Holiday

Straw hats are found in nearly every culture in the world and have been used since ancient times. Made from local materials, some are unique to and even iconic of the country in which they’re made. Woven loosely, straw hats can protect a person from the hot sun while also keeping their head cool. In rainy climates, tightly woven hats are good for staying dry. Of course, straw hats are a staple of women’s fashion and can be found in nearly every color and decorated with ribbon, flowers, feathers, beads, and more.

Miss Fannie’s Hat

Written by Jan Karon | Illustrated by Toni Goffe

 

“Miss Fannie has lots of hats. And each one is her favorite.” Miss Fannie is ninety-nine years old and has a closet full of hats that she has worn on special occasions throughout her life. When she tries on her “red felt with the big feather, she looks in the mirror and says ‘I just love this hat!’” It’s the same with her green velour hat that’s decorated with a fancy pin. She’s not the only one who loves her hats. When she wears them to church, people always tell her, “‘Miss Fannie, I sure do love that hat!’” But Miss Fannie has a favorite among her many hats: the pink straw with silk roses. Everyone else loves this hat too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-fannie's-hat-closet (2)

Image copyright Toni Goffe, text copyright Jan Karon. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

Miss Fannie is a tiny woman who now lives with her daughter, Wanda. Wanda takes good care of her mother. She makes her big breakfasts, and even though Miss Fannie always says its “way too much,” she always clears her plate. Every Saturday, Wanda helps her mother wash her hair in the bathroom sink. Miss Fannie is so small that she has to stand on a stool to reach. Afterward, Wanda rolls her mother’s hair in curlers, and on Sunday morning she “combs out her mama’s hair, which is all nice and soft and gray, like the feathers of a dove.”

Then Miss Fannie puts on make-up, dresses in her best clothes, and chooses a hat. Choosing can be difficult because “Miss Fannie has three black hats, two red hats, one green hat, two white hats, two navy hats, three beige hats, one brown hat, and the famous pink straw with roses. Because she never wears the same one twice in a row, some people think she has a whole closet full of hats. Which, of course, she does.”

One Sunday, Miss Fannie’s preacher comes to her with an earnest request. He asks her to donate one of her hats to the auction that will raise money to fix up the church for Easter. Miss Fannie wants to help, but how can she choose among her beautiful hats? When they get home, Miss Wanda helps her mother lay out all of her hats on the bed and dresser. Alone in her room, Miss Fannie looks over all her hats. As she holds each in her hand she remembers her past. “The green velour with the fancy pin was very, very old, and still very beautiful.” She had worn it during the great flood of 1916 when she “crossed the swollen river on a ferry to visit her mother and father. As she stood at the rail…a house had floated by, almost close enough to touch.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-fannie's-hat-breakfast

Image copyright Toni Goffe, text copyright Jan Karon. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

Next, she considers the red, wide-brimmed felt. The feather on this hat came from a hawk Miss Fannie had caught trying to nab one of her chickens. Then she picks up the brown velvet hat that “always reminded her of Flower, her grandmother’s cow.” She had begun milking Flower when she was seven years old and had learned to churn butter that was better than any found in a store. “Finally, Miss Fannie came to her most favorite hat of all: the pick straw with silk roses.” She had worn it every Easter for thirty-five years and it never failed to make her feel brand new. It was a tradition everyone else enjoyed too, “just as they looked for the tulips and daffodils to bloom in the spring.”

She puts the pink straw hat on, looks in the mirror, and sighs. “In her heart she did not want to giver her hat away. Not at all.” But as she places it back in its box and ties the ribbon, she discovers “she was very, very excited” about all the things it might be able to do. The old pipe organ needed fixing, there was a crack in the church bell, and the roof really needed to be replaced.

At the auction, when the preacher holds up Miss Fannie’s pink straw hat with the silk roses, “the bidding took off lickety-split.” With the bang of the gavel, the hat goes to a woman in the front row. The check she gives the preacher is “enough to really get things fixed,” Miss Fannie knows. She also knows “that she would not miss her favorite hat one bit.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-fannie's-hat-outside

Image copyright Toni Goffe, text copyright Jan Karon. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

On Easter morning Miss Fannie rises and fixes her hair. She looks at her hats—none of which seemed right. As she meets Wanda at the front door in her best dress, her best jewelry, her best gloves, and a white corsage, “Miss Wanda couldn’t believe her eyes. Her mama was going out the door without wearing any hat at all!” When they arrive at the freshly painted church, Miss Fannie and Miss Wanda are surprised and delighted to see pink roses planted everywhere around the building. “‘Oh, Mama!’ said Miss Wanda. ‘It looks just like your pink hat!’”

With tears in her eyes, Miss Fannie learns that they were able to fix the organ and the bell as well as planting all the roses. As the congregation looks on “they didn’t see an old woman at all. What they saw was a young girl with hair as soft as the feathers of a dove.” And now when people pass the church, they don’t see gardens of roses. Instead, they see Miss Fannie’s hat. “And it will always be her favorite.”

Jan Karon’s story of selfless love was a favorite in our house when my daughter was young. Not only is the well-paced narrative full of evocative sensory details, bits of history, and realistic dialogue, it centers around a unique plot involving the types of soul-searching decisions that are hard to make. No matter how many times we read the book, Miss Fannie’s choice to auction her favorite hat to benefit her church seemed to come as a surprise that both inspired and heartened. While the tale is primarily Miss Fannie’s, it is Wanda’s story of benevolence too as Karon affectionately describes the ways in which Wanda lovingly attends to her mother’s physical and emotional needs. Throughout Miss Fannie’s Hat, Karon demonstrates that a life well-lived is one abounding in joyous giving.

Toni Goffe takes readers into Miss Wanda’s home—and Miss Fannie’s memory—with his bright, delicate illustrations that fully satisfy little one’s love of realistic detail. My daughter enjoyed the textured feel to the images, where steam rises from a cup of tea and from the bathroom sink, Miss Wanda brushes out her mother’s soft hair, and the hats—made of velvet, velour, and straw and sporting feathers, flowers, nets, and ribbon—beg to be touched. In fact, with the first page and its tantalizing peek into Miss Fannie’s closet, readers will find themselves riveted to her hats and life story. Vignettes from Miss Fannie’s younger years as well as scenes of her now demonstrate her enduring courage and strength of character.

For kids who like to count, sort, and compare, a one-page illustration and a glorious two-page spread allow them to match the list of hats in the text with the contents of Miss Fannie’s closet. They are also invited to choose their favorite from among Miss Fannie’s hats.

Miss Fannie’s Hats is a wonderful story to share with young readers for its ideas of giving, multigenerational relationships, and friendship.

Ages 3 – 6

Puffin Books, 2001 | ISBN 978-0140568127

Discover more about Jan Karon and her books for children and adults on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Toni Goffe on his website!

Straw Hat Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hat-matching-game

Hat Matching Game

 

These hats come in pairs—or maybe even triplets—but somehow they’ve been mixed up! Can you find all the matching sets? Just put on your thinking caps and play this printable game!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print two or more sets of cards
  2. Cut the hat cards apart
  3. Mix them up and lay them face down on the floor or table
  4. Choosing one card at a time, turn them over to try and find a match
  5. If the cards do not match, replace them face down and try again
  6. Continue play until all the hats have been matched

Picture Book Review

September 16 – Collect Rocks Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rhoda's-rock-hunt-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday allows anyone who just can’t resist picking up a particularly pretty or unusual stone to indulge their whims and fancies. Rock collecting can be a fun and educational hobby as each type of stone has its own fascinating history and science to learn about. Why not go on a hike today and discover the unique shapes, colors, and feel of the rocks below your feet.

Rhoda’s Rock Hunt

Written by Molly Beth Griffin | Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell

 

Rhoda has gone camping with her Auntie June and Uncle Jonah. On a days-long hike, her shower is a “bucket of cold lake water, dinner was salami and cheese, and her bed was a skinny little pad and ratty sleeping bag.” But Rhoda puts up with it all because along the way she finds rocks—and Rhoda loves rocks.

Auntie June doesn’t mind Rhoda’s collecting rocks—as long as she carries them in her own pack. Rhoda agrees. One day while hiking through a birch forest Rhoda spies “jagged rocks and bumpy rocks and one with tiny sparkly bits that glinted in the dappled sunlight. Ooo!” Rhoda puts them all in her pack and trudges on, sweating a bit with the effort.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rhoda's-rock-hunt-crossing stream

Image copyright Jennifer A. Bell, courtesy of jenniferabell.com

The next day while crossing a stream, Rhoda reaches into the cool, flowing water and comes up with a bunch of smooth stones. One has “a curve that fit into her palm just right. Ooo! Into the pack they all went—Yarg!” Rhoda is beginning to slump under the weight of her pack, but she continues on. After a sleepless night, Rhoda is tired, hungry, dirty, and a little bit crabby—until she sees the lake. “Waves crashed on the shore, and gulls called overhead. The water stretched out to the horizon, and the beach was covered with millions and billions of rocks!”

Rhoda lies on the “sun-warmed treasures,” studying the beauty of each stone. She finds red ones, blue ones, and stripy ones. “Then she discovered tiny banded ones that glowed the color of sunsets. Ooo!” She pours them all into her pack. When Auntie June and Uncle Jonah tell her it’s time to go, Rhoda grabs her pack, but it stays put. She pushes, pulls, and tugs, but the bag doesn’t budge. With no one to help carry her pack or any of the rocks, Rhoda has a hard decision to make. She doesn’t want to give up any of her stones, but she knows she must.

Then she has an idea. Carefully working “with the weight of each rock, with the curves and bumps and bulges of each rock,” she stacks them on a flat slab of stone near the water’s edge until they all “balanced in perfect towers.” Well, almost all. Into her pockets “went the one glinting forest rock, and the one palm-snuggling river rock, and a small handful of tiny glowing agates from the Big Lake.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rhoda's-rock-hunt-making-cairns

Image copyright Jennifer A. Bell, courtesy of jenniferabell.com

As she heads on her way she looks back at her rock cairns—her gift to others passing by—and continues on with Auntie June and Uncle Jonah to the cabin. There, on her windowsill, she builds her own cairns from her beloved treasures.

Collectors everywhere will relate to Rhoda and her enthusiastic gathering of treasures beyond price. Each on is unique and almost calls out to be taken along life’s road. As Rhoda discovers, however, the physical items can begin to weigh you down, impeding progress. Molly Beth Griffin, in her distinctive and quietly powerful book, remind readers that freedom and happiness come from sharing your talents and treasures—and yourself—with others. With evocative description of a camping trip (and well-placed expressions of “Ooo!”), Griffin captures with honesty, grace, and humor the vexations and thrills of childhood.

Jennifer A. Bell gorgeously depicts the forest with its birch stands, rushing streams, vast lake, and variety of stones in soft greens, reds, purples, and blues that blend to reflect the depth and beauty of nature. Adorable Rhoda expresses the range of emotions—from excitement in finding her beloved rocks to annoyance at the travails of camping—that readers will recognize and respond to. Detailed illustrations of the rocks Rhoda finds reveal their attraction to the young collector, and the final spread of the cairns Rhoda builds will have kids wanting to build their own.

A wonderful accompaniment to a hike or camping trip and a quietly inspirational read, Rhoda’s Rock Hunt makes a welcome addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0873519502

To see more books by Molly Beth Griffin for children and young adults, visit her website!

View Jennifer A. Bell’s illustration work for picture books, chapter books, and more on her website!

Collect Rocks Day Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rock This Craft!

 

Smooth stones can give talented artists like yourself a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

To make magnets

  1. Design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
  3. Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board

To make jewelry

  1. Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
  3. Wear your pin proudly

To make a paper weight

  1. Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Let dry
  3. Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rhoda's-rock-hunt-cover

You can find Rhoda’s Rock Hunt at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review