September 13 – National Quiet Day

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About the Holiday

We’re surrounded by noise every day. Cars whoosh by on the street, TVs drone on, and voices fill the air in the office and at school. Sometimes it seems as if you don’t hear the constant din, but you do. Quiet Day was established to give people an opportunity to experience the benefits found in silence. Not only did the founders envision a day in which you sought out quiet places, they suggest that you don’t speak at all for the day. Reconnecting with yourself and your thoughts can make you feel more relaxed and give you new perspectives that can stimulate creativity and better communications.

Charlotte and the Quiet Place

Written by Deborah Sosin | Illustrated by Sara Woolley

 

Charlotte is a girl who likes quiet, but she lives in a noisy world. Everywhere she goes, it seems, it’s impossible to escape from sounds that disturb her peace. At home the hallway creaks where “the floorboards groan,” the living room is like an arcade where the “TV bellows and blares,” and the kitchen is filled with Otto’s barks for his dinner. Even in Charlotte’s bedroom, “which is supposed to be a quiet place, the old steam radiator hisses, whistles, and whines. Where can Charlotte find a quiet place?”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, courtesy of sarawoolley.com

When Charlotte goes to school, things are no better. In the classroom kids are boisterous and bells ring; the lunchroom echoes with clattering trays and scuffing chairs; and the playground blares with big voices and stomping feet and also with little squeaks and rattle of the swings. “Even in the library, which is supposed to be a quiet place, the children giggle, yammer, and yell. Where can Charlotte find a quiet place?”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, courtesy of sarawoolley.com

The outside world resounds with the din of jackhammers, horns, sirens, shouts, cars, music, and the “screeches, rumbles, and roars” of the subway. “Even in the park, which is supposed to be a quiet place, the leaf blower buzzes, blusters, and hums.” Charlotte puts her hands to her ears. “‘Nooo!’” she cries, “‘I have to find a quiet place!’”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

On Saturday Charlotte takes her dog for a walk in the park. Suddenly, Otto spies a squirrel and takes off running, wrenching his leash out of Charlotte’s hand. She chases after him down a hill, over a bridge, and into the middle of a grove of trees. Out of breath, Charlotte and Otto sit beneath a tree. Gasping, Charlotte’s “belly rises up and down, up and down. Her breath goes in and out, in and out. Hooooo ahhhhh. Hooo ahhh.”

Slowly, Charlotte’s breath comes easier and “her mind slows down.” In this state, she discovers another, even quieter place. It is a place deep inside where her breath is soft and her “thoughts are hushed and low.” It is “a place as quiet as the small silence on the very last page of her favorite book, the silence right after ‘The End.’”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

In a little while, Charlotte and Otto leave the grove, but now whenever home or school or the neighborhood is too loud, Charlotte remembers where she can find a quiet place. She simply closes her eyes and pays attention to that place deep in her belly and deep in her mind—“that quiet place inside.”

For so many children the world is a blaring, clattering place where their thoughts are drowned out by the noises around them. Deborah Sosin’s award-winning Charlotte and the Quiet Place validates these feelings and offers children a way to discover inner peace wherever they are. As a tonic to today’s hyper-stimulated environment, kids and adults alike will benefit from the method of mindful reflection Sosin presents. Sosin’s combination of evocative verbs and repetition makes the story fresh and an excellent read-aloud while also mirroring the sounds that are a part of our everyday life.

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

Sara Woolley’s beautiful watercolor illustrations vividly depict not only Charlotte’s world but the sounds that disturb her peace. Amid the fully realized home, school, and neighborhood environments, complete with realistic details kids will recognize, sharp cracks of equipment, blaring bells and whistles, high-pitched voices, and other noises spark the page. Portrayals of Charlotte, her hands over her ears and her eyes sad, express her distress in a way kids will understand. When Charlotte finds the grove of trees in which she first experiences inner peace, Woolley’s color palette turns softer, with peaceful tones of green, blue, and yellow where, previously, “louder” purples, reds, and golds predominated.

Charlotte and the Quiet Place is a very welcomed book for those times when peace seems elusive and will give comfort to children who prefer quiet places and have more introverted natures. The book would make a wonderful addition to all children’s book shelves as well as to school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Parallax Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1941529027

Visit Charlotte and the Quiet Place on her own webstite! You’ll find resources, images and videos, news about events, and more!

Discover more about Deborah Sosin, her writing for children and adults, writing workshops, mindfulness services, and more on her website!

View a gallery of artwork for books, comics,  and other illustration work by Sara Woolley on her website!

Quiet Day Activity

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Share a Smile Cards

 

If you’re taking a quiet day, but still want to communicate with others, print these Share a Smile Cards and give them to your friends, family, and others. Why not slip one into your dad’s pocket or your mom’s purse, put one in your friend’s backpack, or sneak one onto your teacher’s desk? You can even leave one somewhere for a stranger to find! Have fun sharing your smiles, and see how much better you and the others around you feel!

Click here to print your Share a Smile Cards.

July 20 – Space Exploration Day

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About the Holiday

On July 20, 1969, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the lunar module Eagle on the moon’s surface. With one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon. Today’s holiday dates back to that Apollo 11 spaceflight and honors the phenomenal achievement of leaving earth to explore the universe around us. We also celebrate Moon Day today in commemoration of the first lunar landing. There are many ways to remember this moment in history that captured the imagination of millions and still resonates today. Why not go moon and star gazing, set off model rockets, enjoy a sci-fi movie or book, or throw a moon-themed party?


Today, I’m happy to welcome a guest reviewer—Nick Alexander!

Hi there! I’m so glad I could participate in reviewing this book. I’m Nick, a space-obsessed environmental science and geology major from Connecticut College who adores anything related to exploring the universe! I developed my love of space at an early age, and it’s inspired me to always think scientifically about the world around me. I’m a big fan of sci-fi, and I love classic science fiction novels. I love to write, read, and create things as well as come up with new ideas to research. I still hold on to my childhood ambition of becoming an astronaut, and I hope to one day get out into space and explore the cosmos!


The Darkest Dark

Written by Chris Hadfield | Illustrated by the Fan Brothers (Terry and Eric Fan)

 

The Darkest Dark is a story of many lessons, trials, and triumphs. The book focuses on a little boy named Chris as he discovers the best way to deal with his fear of the dark, a phobia that many children experience. Chris is a boy who dreams of outer space and aviation and longs to one day touch the stars like his heroes. However, there is one problem; Chris is terrified of the “aliens” that lurk in the dark, especially in his bedroom after the lights are turned off. He is so afraid that he can’t sleep through the night in his own bed.

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Through a journey of trial and error, with the support of his parents, and by watching the 1969 moon landing (which just had its 48th anniversary on the publication of this review), he overcomes his fear and pursues his dreams of becoming an astronaut. This wonderfully charming book explores many a small child’s fear—the dark—and reveals that there is far more to the dark than may meet the eye.

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Chris Hadfield, ISS commander and renowned Canadian astronaut, was very particular in the way he wrote the story, as it explores elements of his own childhood and ties into his own life. The fear of the dark—achluophobia or nyctophobia—is an incredibly common fear that many children deal with at some point in their life. By exploring this phobia, Hadfield channeled his fear into something that he later dedicates his life to. He uses his story to empower the reader and make them feel that even with fears, one can still accomplish anything.

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Terry and Eric Fan use a great series of techniques to help the reader understand what Chris is scared of, which also helps the reader learn to not be afraid of what’s around them. In the beginning of the book, the illustrators create an environment that gets the reader more accustomed to the idea of darkness and shows how it actually contains many possibilities and endless new questions to be answered. In a way, this atmosphere almost changes the reader’s view of what darkness really means, as it’s presented differently throughout the progression of the book. The illustrations, from the perspective of a space geek, are also rather accurate as well, showing the footage of the Apollo 11 landing and shots of the International Space Station in orbit!

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Image copyright The Fan Brothers, 2016. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

As a self-proclaimed space expert, I’m delighted to get the chance to review this wonderful book. Growing up, my fear of the dark often got in the way of being more confident about myself, and to see that people I admire went through something similar really means a lot. As someone who eventually wants to go to space and explore the unknown, maybe it means I’m on the right path. As we continue to move forward, we must keep our eyes turned skywards, and we must continue to come up with inspiring stories like this, to encourage the next generation.

A note about Chris Hadfield and his life and work follows the text.

For kids who love space exploration or who are struggling with overcoming fears, The Darkest Dark is an inspirational read that would be welcome on home bookshelves and a wonderful resource in school, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0316394727

You can learn more about Chris Hadfield and his events, music, and videos as well as view a gallery of aerial photographs on his official website!

Discover a portfolio of illustration work by Terry and Eric Fan on their website!

Blast off to The Darkest Dark with this book trailer!

Space Exploration Day Activity

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Phases of the Moon Blackboard

 

If you have a little space lover in your family, they may like keeping track of the phases of the moon with their own chalkboard! This craft is easy and fun to do together and will make a cool wall decoration for any child’s room.

Supplies

  • Black tri-fold presentation board or thick poster board
  • Pencil
  • White chalk or glow-in-the-dark paint
  • Circular object to trace (or use a compass) to make the moon
  • Mountable squares for hanging

Directions

The chalkboard can be made any size that you prefer by adjusting the size of the board and sizes of the “moon”

  1. Cut your black tri-fold or poster board to the preferred dimensions. My board measures 4 feet long x 1 foot high
  2. To create nine moon phases, with the pencil trace nine circles at equal distances apart in the center of the board
  3. With the chalk or paint, fill in the center circle completely to make the full moon.

To make the moon phases to the right of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the right of the full moon, color in the left side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the right side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the left half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the right half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the left side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

To make the moon phases to the left of the full moon

  1. In the circle to the left of the full moon, color in the right side of the circle until it is ¾ full. Make a dotted line along the left side of the circle
  2. In the next circle color in the right half of the circle with chalk or paint. Make a dotted line to indicate the left half of the circle
  3. In the third circle from the center fill in a ¼ section crescent on the right side of the circle. Make a dotted line around the remaining ¾ of the circle
  4. To mark the new moon on the end, mark the circle with a dotted line

Hang the blackboard on the wall with mounting squares

You can follow the phases of the moon through each month by adding the dates that correspond to each phase and erasing and changing them as the weeks progress.

Picture Book Review

June 12 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Cats make wonderful pets! They can be cuddly or completely independent, but their playful personalities make for lots of laughs and love. If you own a cat, spend some extra time with your pet and ensure that all of your feline friend’s health needs are being met and are up-to-date. If you think you might like to adopt a cat into your family, visit your local animal shelter for cats and kittens who are looking for a forever home.

Lily’s Cat Mask

By Julie Fortenberry

 

Lily was starting school so her dad took her shopping. “Lily wasn’t sure she wanted to get new things for school, but her father said it would be fun.” After buying some clothes and meeting a woman they knew who gushed at how much Lily had grown, Lily was tired and wanted to go home. “But then she saw the cat mask.” It was the only one on the shelf, and Lily’s dad surprised her by buying it for her.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Lily put it on immediately and wore it on the way home. She wore it to tea parties with her toys, to family parties “when she wanted to be invisible. And when she wanted to be noticed.” When she wore it to her doctor’s appointment, the doctor spoke in meows. One day she lost her mask. Her dad made her a rabbit costume, and while that was fun for a while, Lily was happy to finally find her cat mask.

Lily wore her cat mask for many occasions. She wore it when she didn’t want to talk—like when she met her new teacher. “She liked to hide her face when she felt mean and couldn’t get nice.” She even blew out her birthday candles and made a wish wearing the mask. When school started, Lily was only allowed to wear her mask on the playground, but once in a while she put it on, hoping no one would notice. Then it was sometimes put in the teacher’s desk drawer.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

One day, the teacher made a very exciting announcement. The class was going to have a costume party, and everyone could wear a mask or dress up however they wanted. On the day of the party, there were characters, animals, and bugs of all kinds. But then Lily looked across the room and saw the best costume of all—another cat! During recess the new friends played on the swings and meowed happily together.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Julie Fortenberry’s story of a quiet, hesitant child who discovers a unique way of interacting with the world around her offers openhearted acceptance and understanding for children who are observant and thoughtful integrators. The reaction of Lily’s father, teacher, doctor, and family members to her cat mask is uplifting and provides excellent modeling. The straightforward storytelling highlights Lily’s sweet personality as well as the empathetic responses her costume elicits.

Fotenberry’s illustrations of adorable Lily and her experiences at home, at school, at the doctor’s office, and at the mall are full of joy. The colors are fresh and vibrant, but also calm and peaceful, mirroring Lily’s feelings when wearing her cat mask. The images demonstrate and validate Lily’s preference to watch and participate in events from her own distance.

Lily’s Cat Mask provides the opportunity for much discussion with children, especially about meeting people, Lily’s birthday wish, where Lily sits and plays at parties and at school, and when Lily makes a friend. The book is highly recommended for classroom and school libraries and would make a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0425287996

Discover more about Julie Fortenberry and view a gallery of her books and artwork on her website!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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The Cat’s Meow Word Search

 

There are so many beautiful types of cats! Can you find the names of twenty-one breeds in this printable The Cat’s Meow Word Search puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

May 9 – National Moving Month

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About the Holiday

With better weather, kids getting out of school, and more jobs opening up, May begins the busiest season in the moving business. Moving can be both hard and exhilarating—and there’s so much to do! But help is only a phone call away. There are professionals to help you all along the way from selling and finding a house to packing up belongings and transporting them. Somewhere along the way, a yard sale is always in the mix to pass along those items that are no longer needed and to make a little money in the process!

Yard Sale

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

 

From the first words—“Almost everything we own is spread out in our front yard”—readers realize that this is no ordinary yard sale. A little girl sits on the front porch of her tidy house gazing out sadly at the family’s furniture, toys, books, and knick-knacks that are all for sale. The family is moving to a small apartment: “‘Small but nice,’ my mom told me.” The apartment has a secret bed that opens down from the wall “right in the living room.”

When the yard sale opens people stop by to look, “picking up things, asking the price, though Mom and Dad already put prices on them.” Even though the items are priced low, people haggle over how much they want to pay. A woman complains that ten dollars is too much for the little girl’s bed because the headboard has crayon marks on it. Watching, Callie now wishes she hadn’t made the marks to show how often she had read Goodnight Moon. Her mother settles for five dollars for the bed.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo,  text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Suddenly, Callie sees a man loading her bike into a truck and runs to grab it. The man is confused, sorry for taking it, but tells her he has just bought it. Callie’s dad runs over and explains again that the apartment has no place for the bike or sidewalks nearby to ride it on. Callie looks at her dad who seems to have tears in his eyes. “But probably not,” she decides. “My dad doesn’t cry.” She relinquishes the bike, but asks the man, “‘Will you give it back to me when we get our house back?’”

Callie’s best friend, Sara, is waiting for her. The two friends hug and talk about why Callie has to move. “‘I wish you didn’t have to go,’” Sara mutters. “‘Why do you, anyway?’” Callie shrugs. “‘I don’t know. It’s something to do with money.’” They don’t understand what has happened, and Sara offers, “‘I could ask my parents if you could stay with us.’” But Callie’s heart tells her where she belongs. “‘My parents would be lonely,’” she says. “‘…I’d miss my mom and dad.’”

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

The sale continues and people drive away with tables, chairs, and clothing. For a moment, Callie feels important when a man asks her if their large potted geranium is for sale and she directs him to her dad. By the end of the day almost everything is gone. Callie’s mom “looks droopy” and her dad is comforting her. Callie sits dejectedly watching the final things being carried away and thinking that she will give Sara her red heart necklace and invite her to visit their new apartment.

At that moment a woman comes up to Callie and says, “‘Aren’t you just the cutest thing? Are you for sale?’” Callie has a visceral reaction: “A shiver runs through me, from my toes to my head.” She runs to her parents, crying. “‘I’m not for sale, am I? You wouldn’t sell me, would you?’” Her parents drop what they are doing to hug and reassure Callie that they would “‘not ever ever, ever’” sell her. “‘Not for a million, trillion dollars.’”

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

With everything gone, Callie and her parents go back inside their “almost empty house.” It’s okay, Callie thinks. None of the stuff is important, and it wouldn’t fit in their new place anyway. “But we will fit in our new place. And we are taking us.”

For so many children frequent relocations or sudden moves from a home they know is a reality. Eve Bunting’s Yard Sale treats this subject with sensitivity and honest emotion through the eyes of a little girl for whom the change is confusing but ultimately reassuring. Bunting does not stint on either the setting of the yard sale itself, where people quibble over a couple of dollars, or the toll the day takes on the family. Her dialogue always rings true, and her straightforward delivery allows for understanding and for the moments of humor to shine through.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Lauren Castillo’s ink-and-watercolor paintings anchor this emotional story in a homey, loving environment even as they realistically portray the atmosphere of the yard sale. The full range of feelings are apparent in the characters’ faces from sadness and doubt to kindness and acceptance. Children will respond to Callie with her earnest attempts to understand and feel the comfort and encouragement Callie receives as her parents bend down to talk to her, hold her hand, and give her hugs.

Yard Sale is a poignant story that offers assurance and insight both for children who are facing a move and the friends and classmates who will miss them. The book’s theme is applicable to other daunting circumstances and would be a welcome addition to classroom and local libraries as well as for individuals encountering change.

Ages 4 – 9

Candlewick Press, 2017 (paperback); ISBN 978-0763693053 | 2015 (hardcover); ISBN 978-0763665425

To view more books and artwork by Lauren Castillo, visit her website!

National Moving Month Activity

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Garage Sale Maze

 

A garage sale is a bit like a treasure hunt. Can you find your way through this printable Garage Sale Maze from the roadside sign to the items for sale? Here’s the Solution!

March 2 – Read Across America Day

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About the Holiday

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Read Across America Day, which is sponsored by the National Education Association and promotes the joy and discovery that reading provides. Not only is reading fun, studies show that reading to a child from birth improves literacy and language development and leads to a lifelong love for books. Today, visit your local bookstore or library and find some new books to share—or grab some favorites off your shelf and enjoy them again!

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling

By Timothy Basil Ering

 

Captain Alfred was sailing home with his boat filled with ducks for his farm. “Nestled safe inside his fiddle case” was one nearly ready-to-hatch egg—a surprise present for his wife. Captain Alfred already had a name picked out for the little one—Alfred Fiddleduckling—and he knew this baby would be very special. But suddenly a “mighty gale whipped the seas into a raging fury” and tossed the little boat and its occupants to and fro. When the storm had blown itself out, a thick, impenetrable fog descended over the ocean.

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Image and text copyright Timothy Basil Ering, courtesy of Candlewick Press

From the porch of a small cottage on the shore’s edge, a woman looked out to sea as “tears of worry dropped from her cheeks, into the mist.” Baby Alfred, however, unaware of these events and hidden by the fog, hatched as the fiddle case floated on the now-calm water. The little duckling looked around and saw something in the water nearby. He paddled out to it and even though it took no notice of him, Alfred “embraced the object with all of his heart.” He “caressed it so that it would not feel as lonely as he did ” and was surprised to hear a most beautiful and unexpected sound.

Alfred immediately fell in love—and imagined that his love was reciprocated. The two drifted along, buoyed by the waves until Alfred’s feet touched ground in a spooky swamp. In a moment, however, the comforting music began again. The sounds, so unexpected in this mist-shrouded swamp, reached the ears of “a beast that was lurking in the tall grasses.” The Beast bounded in the direction of the sound and found Alfred and his love. With drool dripping from its jaws, the beast came closer. Alfred shook, and in his fear “his music became fast and wild!”

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Image and text copyright Timothy Basil Ering, courtesy of Candlewick Press

The beast stood on his hind two legs, rising high and menacing above tiny Alfred and…began to dance. The dog had missed his master’s fiddle playing and he now found a best friend in Alfred. The two trekked through the swamp, searching for home and becoming cold, wet, and helpless as the hours stretched on. The fiddle quivered with music that was as sad and helpless as the two wanderers.

But someone heard those quiet strains—the woman on the porch of the little cottage. “She ran through the fog, straight toward the sound of Alfred’s fiddle. She wrapped her arms around her dog and marveled at the special duckling and his music. “‘Don’t ever stop playing your wonderful music,’” she told Alfred. Alfred played with abandon, pouring out all the happiness in his heart. Out on the sea a raft of ducks and one very surprised captain heard the music…and you can guess what happened next!

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Image copyright Timothy Basil Ering, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Timothy Basil Ering’s wonderfully unique tale of a ship-wrecked duckling and a fiddle who together make beautiful music that reunites a family is captivating. The story holds just the right amount of surprise, suspense, and heart to keep young children riveted to what happens next. Ering’s lyrical phrasing is music to readers’ ears and conveys the various melodies—sweet, quivering, poignant, tempestuous, and finally joyful—that carry the story from one event to another.

Ering’s full-bleed illustrations begin with bright vibrancy that gives way to gauzy grays as the fog rolls in. Despite the weather or ominous surroundings, Alfred remains a bright spot, his yellow fuzz and the multi-colored notes a glowing beacon in the dark. Little readers will love following the confetti notes of Alfred’s playing and guessing the next twist in the plot. The star of the story, plucky little Alfred, is a cutie as  with empathy he embraces the fiddle and bravely ventures through sea and swamp to find home.

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling is joyful, mysterious, and humorous tribute to friendship, love, and the unexpected that would make a great gift and an often-read addition to children’s home libraries.

Ages 2 – 6

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763664329

Read Across America Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mug-cookie

Snuggle-in Mug Cookie Treat

 

Snuggling up and reading is made even better with a quick and tasty treat! Make this warm mug cookie that takes only minutes to put together and then settle in for some favorite or new stories! Here’s a delicious recipe from Food.com for you to try!

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • ½ Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 Tablespoons dark or milk chocolate chips
  • 1 Pinch salt

Directions

  1. Place butter and milk in a microwavable mug. Microwave for 30 seconds to melt the butter and warm the milk.
  2. Stir in the brown sugar and vanilla extract.
  3. Mix in flour, chocolate chips, and salt.
  4. Microwave for about 1 minute on High. (Cooking time is based on the texture of cookie you like)
  5. Cool for 5 minutes before serving
  6. Add toppings such as ice cream, whipped cream, or hot fudge or chocolate sauce

Picture Book Review

March 1 – Horse Protection Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2005 by pet lifestyle expert and animal behaviorist/advocate Colleen Page, Horse Protection Day raises awareness of horses that are treated cruelly or are unwanted and abandoned or euthanized. Horses are loving pets and work animals with a proud history of crucial participation in the building and farming of our nation and others. To honor today’s holiday, consider donating to the cause of protecting horses or—if you have the land and means—to adopting a homeless horse.

Tony

Written by Ed Galing | Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

 

Tony “was such a wonderful horse.” Every morning, long before the sun came up, Tom would hitch him to the wagon and they would deliver milk, butter, and eggs to customers around town. “Tony was all white, large, sturdy, with wide gentle eyes and a ton of love….” While Tom jumped out of the wagon and carefully carried the products to waiting doorsteps, Tony stood silently by.

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Image copyright Erin E. Stead, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

At one house the lights were always already burning even though it was only 3:00 a.m. The occupant of the house would come out and gently pat Tony, whose eyes shone as he bowed his head to receive the daily affection. Before moving on to the next house, Tom and the narrator always exchanged pleasantries. “Wouldn’t miss Tony for the world,” the customer would respond, adding compliments for Tony. 

These kind words made Tom smile as he seated himself once again in the wagon, and while the narrator watched them continue down the street, he “knew that Tony did a little dance.”

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Image copyright Erin E. Stead, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Ed Galing’s touching memoir to a special horse and a daily routine that brought camaraderie and comfort to the story’s narrator reminds readers that happiness can be found in the simplest of actions, and profound love in the connections between people and animals. Implicit in this minimalist snapshot of a short, early morning meeting are all the mornings—perhaps years-worth—carried out in exactly the same fashion that have forged the bond between Tony and the narrator.

Underlining the story is the basis for this bond—the affection and respect the narrator gives Tony and receives in return. It is perhaps not too much of a stretch to imagine a young child similarly encouraged by such compliments. The early morning setting (also prime time for many babies) lends a dreamy mystery to the tale—who is the narrator, why are they up so early, and how old are they? (certain illustrations give intriguing clues)—that children will enjoy imagining and discussing.

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Image copyright Erin E. Stead, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Erin E. Stead’s pencil-drawn illustrations, beautifully introduced by a page of vellum that sets the tone, are quiet, peaceful vignettes of Tony as he hitches up in the morning and takes Tom on his rounds. Bathed only in the glow of the light over the barn, a street light, or the light from the narrator’s open door, Tony makes his way through the dim streets with graceful dignity. Tony is gorgeously and expressively drawn.

As he waits outside the narrator’s house, Tony’s head is turned toward the doorway in expectation, and again as he pulls away from the curb, he gives one last look back. Children will love seeing the way milk and other farm products were once delivered and will respond to the gauzy sage and amber backdrop that makes Tony a perfect quiet time or bedtime book.

Tony is gentle, heartwarming triumph and a wonderful book to spur family-history stories. It would be a welcome addition to any child’s bookshelf.   

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626723085

Learn more about Erin E. Stead and view a gallery of her illustration work on her website!

National Horse Protection Day

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Horse Coloring Page

 

Horses are such beautiful creatures! Enjoy this printable Horse Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

January 13 – It’s National Soup Month

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About the Holiday

Winter weather is made for soup…or…is soup made for winter weather? Either way, soup offers the warm, comforting, stick-to-your ribs meal that just seems so right as the temperatures dip. Today, grab a can or cook up a batch of your favorite soup and add a hearty loaf of sourdough or artisanal bread and have a feast!

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First Tomato: A Voyage to the Bunny Planet

By Rosemary Wells

 

The day is new—only 7:00 a.m. —and already Claire is having a tough time.  At breakfast she “ate only three spoons of cornflakes” before the bowl was knocked to the floor. While walking to school, Claire’s feet were soaked by snow, and “by eleven in the morning, math had been going on for two hours.” The cafeteria was serving baloney sandwiches—blecchh!—and at recess “Claire was the only girl not able to do a cartwheel.” At the end of school, all Claire wanted to do was go home, but she was left waiting…and waiting…and waiting at the bus stop.

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Image copyright Rosemary Wells, courtesy rosemarywells.com

After all the slights and disappointments, “Claire needs a visit to the Bunny Planet.” She closes her eyes and floats away…. “Far beyond the moon and stars, / Twenty light-years south of Mars, / Spins the gentle Bunny Planet / And the Bunny Queen is Janet.”

Janet ushers Claire into “the day that should have been.” Wafting on the warm winds Claire hears her mother’s voice: “pick me some runner beans and sugar snap peas. / Find a ripe tomato and bring it to me, please.” So early in the season, Claire finds only one red, ripe tomato on the vine. It “smells of rain and steamy earth and hot June sun” that tempts her to taste it, but she puts in her basket and gives it to her mother.

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Image copyright Rosemary Wells, courtesy rosemarywells.com

As her mother cooks, Claire sits at the cozy kitchen table shelling the peas. Soon, Claire’s mother brings her a steamy bowl of soup, and as they gaze at each other in understanding, Clair hears her “mother calling when the summer winds blow, / ‘I’ve made you First Tomato soup because I love you so.’”

Finally the bus arrives to take Claire home. During the ride she spies the Bunny Planet “near the evening star” and realizes that it was there all the time.

Today I chose a favorite book from when my own kids were little. One of three Voyage to the Bunny Planet books, Rosemary Wells’ First Tomato never failed to bring a little lump to my throat as I read it to my son and daughter (and even reading it again for this review, I felt the same catch in my heart).

In the difficulties that Claire suffers during the school day, kids will recognize the predicaments they also experience, and as Claire visits the Bunny Planet they’ll understand that solace is always close by. Claire’s sweet face and vintage dress as well as the lush details of the settings make each square illustration a masterpiece of expression and emotion. Wells’ beautiful turns of phrase and lyrical lines soothe the disquiet of real life with the balm of a parent’s or caregiver’s love, making First Tomato a wonderful book to share again and again.

All three Voyage to the Bunny Planet books—including The Island Light and Moss Pillows, two more enchanting and touching quiet-time reads—are available in a single-volume gift edition.

Ages 3 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2008 | ISBN 978-0670011032

To discover more about Rosemary Wells and her books, plus videos, games, coloring pages, information for parents and educators, and more, visit her website!

National Soup Month Activity

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Souper Maze!

 

You can’t eat soup without a spoon! Can you help the spoon get through the maze to the bowl in this printable Souper Maze? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review