June 23 – It’s National Homeownership Month

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About the Holiday

Owning a home is a major goal for many people, and while home ownership provides security for individuals and families, it’s also good for cities and towns, offering stability, economic benefits, and community cohesion. To that end, today’s holiday was established as a week-long observance in 1995 by then-President Bill Clinton as a way to increase homeownership by helping people negotiate the sometimes confusing elements of finding and purchasing a home. In 2002, President George Bush extended the holiday to a full month. A home is so much more than just a building, and each person has their own idea about what makes a home—or a neighborhood—perfect. Sometimes you can’t really put your finger on it—it’s just a feeling. Today’s sweet book shows how one community welcomed its newest member.

Thanks to Tundra Books for sending me a copy of Mr. Mole Moves In for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Mr. Mole Moves In

By Lesley-Anne Green

 

Mr. Mole was new to Juniper Hollow and couldn’t wait to meet his neighbors. “Now, Juniper Hollow doesn’t get too many new residents, so when they do, boy oh boy, do these critters get excited!” In fact, Raccoon had been playing close to Mr. Mole’s house, just waiting for him to come outside. When he did, Raccoon ran over, introduced himself, and stuck out his paw. Mr. Mole was happy to meet Raccoon, but instead of shaking Raccoon’s hand, he grabbed a branch from the bush next to him and gave “it a good shake.” Although a bit confused, Raccoon took it in stride and figured that’s just how things were done in Mole Town.

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Copyright Lesley-Anne Green, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

While Raccoon was relating this story to the Rabbit family, Mr. Mole ran into a fence post and apologized to it. Rabbit was impressed with Mr. Mole’s manners and hurried after him to introduce herself and her bunnies. They caught up with him at the general store, where he was talking to Giraffe. “‘What a beautiful baby!’ Mr. Mole said, looking sweetly at the watermelon Giraffe was holding.” When Mr. Mole went inside the store, Giraffe and Rabbit discussed what had happened. They decided that watermelons must be very prized in Mole Town. Inside the store, Cat and Chicken were talking about Mr. Mole too.

Mr. Mole stocked up on cans of worms and approached the counter, where Rabbit introduced herself and her bunnies. He was so thrilled to meet them that he immediately reached for a jar on the counter. “‘Bear, I will also take three of these candies for the little ones,’” Mr. Mole said as he handed them around. The bunnies looked at the erasers in their paws and decided to keep them for later.

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Copyright Lesley-Anne Green, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Watching all of this, Cat and Chicken decided that they would plan some kind of special event to welcome their wonderful new neighbor to Juniper Hollow. Everyone wanted to help. The next day they all went to visit Mr. Mole, and called out that they wanted to welcome him to town. A little nervously, Mr. Mole went out onto his front porch. All the critters had made him a welcome basket of all his favorite things.

Then “the littlest bunny hopped over to Mr. Mole and handed him her extra pair of glasses.” Mr. Mole was surprised and thanked her profusely. He had lost his glassed while moving, he told them, and couldn’t “‘see a THING without them.’” After the get-together, Mr. Mole took his basket inside and found—along with a handknit sweater and a pie—branches, erasers, and watermelon. Hmmm… he thought. “‘I guess that’s just how they do things in Juniper Hollow.’”

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Copyright Lesley-Anne Green, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Lesley-Anne Green’s story of friendship and acceptance charms with humor, clever misunderstandings, neighborliness, and one particularly sweet and empathetic bunny. Green’s enchanting storytelling immerses readers in the world of Juniper Hollow, a gentle, easy-going community that welcomes readers with the same warmth it extends to Mr. Mole. Kids will be especially pleased to see that the littlest bunny understands Mr. Mole’s plight and knows just how to help. Green’s adorable needle-felted critters, decked out in dapper outfits, shine with personality, conveying the critters’ confusion as well as their enthusiasm to embrace their newest resident and desire to make him feel at home. Her handmade backgrounds will also captivate readers with their rustic appeal, and readers will want to spend some time in the General Store exploring its well-stocked shelves.

The second book in Lesley-Anne Green’s Juniper Hollow series, Mr. Mole Moves In is a story with depth and charm and inspiring illustrations that will be asked for again and again. The book is a top choice for home, school, and public library bookshelves. You’ll also want to check out Fox and Raccoon, the first Juniper Hollow book.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra, 2021 | ISBN 978-1101918029

You can connect with Lesley-Anne Green on Instagram.

You can watch Lesley-Anne Green talk about her work and create an adorable critter on Tundra Illustrator Studio.

National Homeownership Month Activity

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Pop Up Houses Play Set

 

You can own your own home with this printable Pop Up Play Set thanks to Education.com. It has a house for you and one for a friend! Give your houses some color, plant the trees and move in! Print on heavy paper to make the figures sturdier.

Pop Up Houses Play Set

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You can find Mr. Mole Moves In at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 12 – It’s International Ideas Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate something that you can’t see or hold but which is real all the same. What is it? An idea! Ideas are amazing things. Sometimes seemingly conjured up out of thin air; sometimes borne out of necessity as in today’s book; and sometimes the “Eureka!” result of long, hard work, ideas fuel our arts, sciences, education, and home life. So today, write down those ideas you have while driving or commuting to work, while in the shower, when you’re daydreaming, or just as you turn off the light to go to sleep. You never know what they might become!

The Floating Field: How a Group of Thai Boys Built Their Own Soccer Field

Written by Scott Riley | Illustrated by Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien

 

Like all of the villagers living on the small island of Koh Panyee, Prasit Hemmin’s home was built on stilts. His father was a fisherman, and every morning Prasit helped him load his boat before school. Today was an exciting day, and Prasit hurried to meet his friends at Uncle’s coffee shop. They had big decisions to make: “Who will carry the poles? Who’s on which team? Who gets to kick off first?” The full moon had come and later the tide would go out.

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Image copyright Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien, 2021, text copyright Scott Riley, 2021. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

By the time school was over, the sandbar with its glittering sand was ready, beckoning to the boys to come play. They set up their goal and dropped the ball then “they dug in their toes and chased it across the hard-packed ripple of sand. They weaved in between other players to get open. And when they got close, they took a shot. GOAL!” The boys played until the sun went down and the fisherman’s longboats returned home. Then they “could only dream about playing until the tides were low enough once more.”

Fortunately, the World Cup was being held this month, and the boys watched the games on the small TV at Uncle’s coffee shop—“the only one on the island.” The boys decided that they needed a team of their own. But where would they play? Prasit looked around at their floating village and had an idea. They could build their own field. The next day, they collected materials and got to work. With planks and barrels, they built a platform. When it was ready, they tethered it in place, painted the lines, and put up goals.

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Image copyright Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien, 2021, text copyright Scott Riley, 2021. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Every day, Prasit and his friends played on their floating field, learning some fancy footwork to avoid rough spots on the boards. The villagers who once thought they were crazy for building the field now stopped to watch. One day the boys heard about a tournament being held on the mainland, and they signed up. On the morning of the tournament, just before they left for the mainland, the villagers surprised them with new uniforms and “the Panyee Football Club was born.”

The boys stood nervously on the field before their first game began, but once the ball was in play, they knew just what to do. “They passed it down the field. They weaved in between other players to get open. And when they got close, the took a shot. GOAL!” The Panyee Football Club won several games, but by the afternoon, the weather had turned and rain pelted the field. While their opponents knew how to play on the soggy field, the Panyee boys didn’t. At halftime they were down 2 – 0. Prasit had an idea.

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Image copyright Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien, 2021, text copyright Scott Riley, 2021. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Back on the field, the boys ran barefoot, just as they did at home. They were quicker and more agile, and they were able to tie the score. But with only minutes left in the game, the other team scored—and won. “But that day, in their very first tournament, the Panyee Football Club came in third place.” On the boat ride home, the boys celebrated, eager to get back on their floating field “where they could play the game they loved, whenever they wanted.”

Extensive backmatter includes an Author’s Note, complete with photographs, reveals some unusual places soccer is played and more about how this story came to be; a note from Prasit Hemmin about his childhood experiences and the future success of the football club he and his friends started; and a glossary of soccer vocabulary in English and Thai with pronunciation tips. There is also a list of resources for further reading.

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Image copyright Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien, 2021, text copyright Scott Riley, 2021. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

Soccer fans and sports lovers of all kinds will find the story of Prasit Hemmin and the soccer field he and his friends designed enthralling. The idea that these boys could only play their favorite game twice a month will be eye-opening for kids used to daily or weekly practice, and their ingenious solution will inspire them to greater problem-solving. Through Scott Riley’s detailed storytelling, readers gain knowledge about life on the small island of Panyee as well as how the boys built their floating field. Riley also showcases the camaraderie between the boys and the pride of the villagers, making this a beautiful story of community.

Through various perspectives, Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien’s gorgeous and vibrant illustrations introduce readers to the island of Panyee with its dense collection of homes and businesses that left no room for a soccer field. The blue ocean water shimmers under the sun and ripples where longboats skim over the surface. Immersive images take kids into the Hemmin home and Uncle’s coffee shop, where Prasit’s mother makes breakfast while Prasit and his father ready the fishing boat for the day. Depictions of the boys playing soccer on the sandbar and later on the floating field they built are exciting and full of action. Soccer players may be fascinated by the proportions of the floating field and its goals and appreciate the precision with which Prasit and his friends scored. The contrast between the island and the mainland soccer field will also give readers an appreciation for the Panyee Football Club’s accomplishment in winning third place in their first tournament.

A stellar addition to any child’s library as well as to classroom and homeschool geography, STEM, and multicultural lessons, The Floating Field: How a Group of Thai Boys Built Their Own Soccer Field is highly recommended for home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 7 – 11

Millbrook Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1541579156

Discover more about Scott Riley and his book on his website.

To learn more about Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien, their books, and their art, visit their website, Kaa Illustration.

International Ideas Month Activities

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Kick It In!

 

Use some fancy footwork to move the soccer ball down the field and score in this printable puzzle!

Kick It In Maze Puzzle | Kick It In Maze Solution

Visit Koh Panyee

Learn more about this unique village with this video about Koh Panyee!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-floating-field-cover

You can find The Floating Field: How a Group of Thai Boys Built Their Own Soccer Field at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 2 – Read Across America Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday, established by the National Education Association in 1997, encourages children all across the country to celebrate reading and all of its joys and benefits. The NEA strives to create a nation of diverse readers and to provide teaching resources that promote diversity and inclusion. In NEA’s digital Read Across America calendar, the theme for March is “Cultivate Compassion.” This year teachers and parents can connect with authors, discover ideas for virtually celebrating Read Across America, and find lots of resources for a full year of reading. A love of reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures and a powerful force for future success. Celebrate today by reading with a child or on your own. There are fabulous worlds and stories waiting to be discovered. Just take a look into today’s book1 For more information on Read Across America, visit the NEA website.

If You Come to Earth

By Sophie Blackall

 

In Sophie Blackall’s beautifully—and often whimsically—illustrated If You Come to Earth, a child named Quinn who wears a red elfin hat writes a letter about Earth to any visitor from Outer Space who may venture to our planet. Quinn starts out with a map of sorts to guide the visitor through the cosmos to our “greeny-blue” home and, closer still, to the cities, towns, and villages where we congregate. A patchwork image shows the visitor the variety of houses people live in—from huts to trailers, castles to houseboats, cabins to treehouses to a familiar lighthouse. One space is also dedicated to those who have lost their homes “in a fire. In a flood. In a war.”

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Turn the page to a sunny-day picnic and Quinn reveals that in those homes live “all kinds of families.” Sometimes people are quiet, but Quinn tells the visitor, “inside our heads, we are usually thinking. You can’t see our thoughts, but sometimes we show our feelings on our faces.” What kinds of feelings? Blackall’s portraits show sadness and glee, confusion and surprise, frustration and calm. The child mentions clothing, weather, and transportation. “I’m a kid,” Quinn says, “and kids go to school to learn stuff, so we’ll know what to do when we’re grown up.” Quinn’s class is seen drawing space aliens while they talk together and share colored pencils. One boy is making a face and another is sleeping on his blank piece of paper.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

What will these kids grow up to be? Forty snapshots of adults—including a beekeeper, potter, astronaut, tennis player, barber, chef, dancer, chess player, construction worker, veterinarian, doctor, singer, and scientist—will give the visitor an idea of the vast array of jobs people do “to make the world work.” There are ideas for leisure time too. And as a large group sits around table laden with all kinds of food, Quinn says that we “eat when we are hungry” and that “some of us have more food than others,” but that “we all need food and water to survive.”

From this introduction, the visitor learns about the ocean, which appears empty but “actually it’s full.” A stunning montage of sea creatures depicts what the child means. Likewise, the land hosts animals, which bound, creep, and lope across the pages, and the sky is home to birds of all colors and sizes.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Quinn talks about the music in the world, made by animals and people, about deaf people who talk with their hands, and about blind people who read with their hands and includes images of the sign language and braille alphabets. He tells about things created by nature and those made by people; things that are big and things that are small and even things that are invisible but make a big impact. One of these is germs, which “can make you sick” just like “eating a woolly milkcap toadstool or breathing in smoke or getting spat on by a slow loris.”

Quinn reveals different ways people interact and how they grow up from babies to older people. He admits that “there are lots of things we don’t know…. But right this minute, we are here together on this beautiful planet.” Quinn ends his letter with some questions for the possible visitor from Outer Space and an invitation to stay in his room if, indeed, they come to Earth.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Every page of Sophie Blackall’s mesmerizing and welcoming look at life on our planet invites readers to explore her detailed illustrations and imagine what their own additions would be to each topic. Blackall’s straightforward text is sprinkled with humor and poignancy and each line opens up a world of possibilities and the gifts of our rich diversity, both natural and human. The subjects Blackall chooses flow from each other like a long strand of yarn teased from a sweater with an intricate design and are sure to lead to fun, fascinating, and thoughtful discussions. Blackall’s ending will inspire as much as it makes you smile.

Accompanying Blackall’s text are her exquisite illustrations that are fresh and fun and, in many cases, will take your breath away. Both kids and adults will want to spend time carefully studying and talking about each page, as there is so much to see, so many connections to make, and so many secrets tucked away in each of them. Readers will notice allusions to other books and will want to point out all of the things that are “just like me!” Pages dedicated to transportation, birds, animals, sea creatures, and jobs will enthrall kids with these particular interests. Artists, collectors, and philosophers will also find pages to excite them too.

A book kids and adults will want to dip into again and again as well as an excellent read to spark writing workshops, nature studies, and social studies classes for schools and homeschoolers, If You Come to Earth is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452137797

To learn more about Sophie Blackall, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-if-you-come-to-earth-cover

You can find If You Come to Earth at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 19 – Look for an Evergreen Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday gives people an opportunity to learn about and appreciate the variety of evergreen trees that grow locally and around the world. During the winter these giants stand out against snowy landscapes with their deep-green needles that retain their color all year around and always offer the hope of spring. For those who celebrate Christmas, the evergreen is a highlight of the celebration. Decorated with lights and sparkly ornaments, the tree is where family and friends gather to exchange gifts and share time together. Look for an Evergreen Day was created by the National Arborist Association to encourage people to enjoy the beauty of these special trees.

Pick a Pine Tree

Written by Patricia Toht | Illustrated by Jarvis

 

A family of four and their dog head out to “pick a pine tree / from the lot,” but what kind do they want—“slim and tall or short and squat?” After looking them all over, they choose a nice big one and tie it to the roof of their car for the trip home. At home they clear a place for the tree to stand, give it a drink, and then “find the trimmings / stored within / bulging boxes, rusty tins, / paper bags, a wooden case. / Bring them to that / special place, / there, beside your tree.”

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Image copyright Jarvis, 2017, text copyright Patricia Toht, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But they don’t start decorating yet. They call their friends to come and help. With the house full of cheer, the kids string the lights, wrapping them around the branches. Next come the ornaments—“Jolly Santas, / Dancing elves. / Wooden reindeer. / Jingle bells. / Lacy snowflakes. / Paper dolls. / Candy canes and / bright glass balls.” With hooks and string the bright ornaments are hung on the tree.

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Image copyright Jarvis, 2017, text copyright Patricia Toht, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Finally, garlands are “strung / from bough to bough,” and tinsel is draped in “silver drips.” On the top a star shines bright and down below a tiny village springs up, complete with “a train that chugs around a track.” At last it’s finished and the lights are lit. “Look! It’s not a pine tree / anymore. / It’s a… / Christmas tree!” As everyone gathers to singing around the Christmas tree, Merry wishes are bestowed on “one and all.”

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Image copyright Jarvis, 2017, text copyright Patricia Toht, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Patricia Toht’s lively rhymes engage kids in one of the holiday season’s most fun activities—picking out and decorating the Christmas tree. Her step-by-step verses brim with the growing excitement of the day and encourage sharing the celebration with family and friends. As they read, kids will be caught up in the fun and memories of this favorite tradition.

Vivid, action-packed mixed-media illustrations in a rich color palette by Jarvis take readers to the Christmas tree lot with its rows and rows of different trees to choose from and back to the family’s cozy home—where a dog and cat are happy to help out. As friends and neighbors drop by for the decorating party, kids will love recounting their own experiences hanging the lights and pointing out ornaments that may look like their own. The fully decorated tree glows in a two-page vertical spread that will wow little readers.

A sweet family story full of smiles, eager anticipation, and a love of Christmas, Pick a Pine Tree is a magical read to add to holiday story times.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763695712

Discover more about Patricia Toht and her books on her website.

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

Look for an Evergreen Day Activity

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Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze

 

Can you help the kids sled their way to find the evergreen tree in this printable maze?

Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze | Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pick-a-pine-tree-cover

You can find Pick a Pine Tree at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 15 – International Tea Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2005 in New Deli, India, International Tea Day was created to raise awareness within the governments of tea-growing countries of the rights of tea workers, their conditions, and their economic contributions. Today, the holiday is commemorated widely in tea-growing nations. Some of the issues the day focuses on include wages, medical care, and education for women tea workers, who make up fifty percent of of the workforce on tea plantations. Following water, tea is the most widely drunk beverage in the world. To celebrate today, enjoy a cuppa with a cookie, a scone, or another favorite treat. 

Teatime Around the World

Written by Denyse Waissbluth | Illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne

 

Two women sit at a table with steaming cups of tea in front of them, talking. “Tea for one. Tea for two.” To the side sits a teapot, its contents still warm. At their feet a child is having a tea party with a bear, jauntily clad in a feathered hat. Cookies, strawberries, and croissants fill out this feast served from a special tea set. “Tea for me. Tea for you.” Tea time continues in Morocco, where a father and child kneel on pillows. The father pours out three cups of mint tea. Made with green tea, mint, and sugar, each cup of tea will have “a slightly different taste.”

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Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

In India a street vendor sells a cup of masala chai to a woman, who’s looking for a peaceful break during her day. The “strong tea and spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and pepper…boiled with milk and sweetened” will hit the spot. Hot tea is relaxing, but on a hot day there’s nothing more refreshing than a glass of iced tea. In Thailand, locals and tourists enjoy cha yen, sold from street vendors’ carts. This “strongly brewed sweet tea is poured over ice and drunk from a bag through a straw. Indigenous people in North America soothe fevers, colds, sore muscles, and even sleepless nights with tea made from “berries, plants, and roots.”

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Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

Special tea times—like chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony during which matcha, a powdered green tea is served, and afternoon tea, enjoyed with trays of treats world wide—bring people together for comforting respites. You’ll be interested to discover the origins of afternoon tea too! Tea can be served quietly or dramatically, like “teh tarik, or pulled tea…the national drink of Malaysia,” is “poured from up high, or ‘pulled’ between two mugs, to make it frothy.”

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Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

Tea is as old as its discovery thousands of years ago in China and as new as bubble tea, created in Taiwan in the 1980s. In Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, yerba maté tea is served in hollowed-out gourds with a “special straw called a bombilla,” while in Jamaica sorrel, made from roselle hibiscus buds, “spiced with ginger, cloves, and sugar,” is perfect for any festive occasion. No matter where you live, what flavors of tea you enjoy, or how you serve it, you can always count on “tea for one. / Tea for two. / Loved by all / the whole world through.”

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Image copyright Chelsea O’Byrne, 2020, text copyright Denyse Waissbluth, 2020. Courtesy of Greystone Books.

With a lilting poem that flows from page to page, Denyse Waissbluth introduces unique flavors, special brew methods, and the comforting feeling a cup of hot or iced tea infuses into a day. The shared experience of tea drinking provides a fascinating touchstone for Waissbluth’s travelogue that takes kids around the world to experience the rituals, recipes, and traditions from each country that makes their tea unique. Waissbluth’s conversational style will appeal to kids looking to learn how global cultures are similar to and different from their own.

Chelsea O’Byrne’s lovely matte illustrations take children to cities, the countryside, and the seaside around the globe, revealing not only diverse scenes of how tea is made, served, and enjoyed, but homes, food, and clothing as well. Children will be excited to see such homey and intimate portraits of their peers around the world.

Sure to spur readers to learn more about the countries featured and entice them to try their signature teas, Teatime Around the World would enhance geography, history, and multicultural lessons for school and homeschooling and is highly recommended for school and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Greystone Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1771646017

You can connect with Denyse Waissbluth on Instagram.

To learn more about Chelsea O’Byrne, her books, and her art, visit her website.

International Tea Day Activity

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Tea for You! Word Search

 

Can you find the names of eighteen delicious teas from around the world in this printable puzzle?

Tea for You! Word Search Puzzle | Tea for You! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-teatime-around-the-world-cover

You can find Teatime Around the World at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 30 – Get Ready for Hanukkah

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About the Holiday

Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is the Jewish wintertime celebration that commemorates the victory of the small Maccabean army over the much more powerful Greek/Syrian forces and the rededication of the Holy Temple during the second century BCE. Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days in remembrance of the miracle of the oil lamp, which at the time only held enough oil for one day yet burned for eight days. This year Hanukkah takes place from December 10 through 18.

The Ninth Night of Hanukkah

Written by Erica S. Perl | Illustrated by Shahar Kober

 

A family has just moved into their new apartment. It’s the first night of Hanukkah, but they can’t find their Hanukkah things amidst all the boxes. So, without the menorah or delicious latkes, Mom, Dad, Rachel, and Max sit on the floor eating pizza. “It was nice…but it didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah.” On the second night, they still hadn’t found the menorah, but Rachel and Max made one from a piece of wood, their jar of nuts and bolts, and some craft paint. It was all ready to light, when Mom discovered that they didn’t have the candles either.

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Image copyright Shahar Kober, 2020, text copyright Erica S. Perl, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With the stores closed, Rachel and Max went next door to apartment 2C. They introduced themselves to Mrs. Mendez and explained their situation. She offered the only candles she had—a box of birthday candles. “Dad lit the shamash. Max and Rachel each used it to light a candle.” Then they opened presents. While it was nice, it still “didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah.
On the third night, the “lucky latke pan” was nowhere to be found, but Max appeared with a steaming plate of French fries from Joe, the super, who lived downstairs.

By the fourth night of Hanukkah, Mom and Dad were beginning to think the box with their Hanukkah things had gotten lost. Max wanted to play dreidel, so while Mom called the moving company, Max and Rachel met the Watson twins, who didn’t have a dreidel, but they did have a toy that spun and spun. On the fifth night, Rachel and Max had made their own dreidel, “which meant they needed gelt.” On the fourth floor, Max and Rachel met Mr. Patel, who handed Max the only chocolate he had—a bag of chocolate chips. All of these substitutions were “nice…but it didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah.”

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Image copyright Shahar Kober, 2020, text copyright Erica S. Perl, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Each night of Hanukkah Max and Rachel missed a different part of their Hanukkah celebration, and each night a new neighbor did the best they could to supply it. On the morning after the eighth night of Hanukkah, a delivery person showed up at the door with Mom’s guitar. She suggested a sing-along, but Rachel reminded her that Hanukkah was over. Max, however, had another idea and pointed to the ninth candle on the menorah. This gave Rachel an idea too, and she and Max whispered and planned. Then they waited. Soon “there was a knock on the door. And another. And another.”

When all the neighbors had gathered, Max and Rachel explained their Shamash Night celebration. Like the Shamash candle “helps light all the other candles,” they said, their new neighbors had helped them celebrate Hanukkah. “‘So we wanted to say thanks—to the Shamash and to you,’” Rachel said. Just then the delivery person appeared with the long-lost box. On the ninth night in their new home, Mom and Dad, Rachel and Max ate, played, sang, and danced with all of their new friends, “and best of all, it felt exactly like Hanukkah.”

An Author’s Note following the story tells about the history and tradition of the shamash candle and the idea that sparked the writing of The Ninth Night of Hanukkah. Erica S. Perl also provides a guide on how families can hold their own “Shamash Night.”

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Image copyright Shahar Kober, 2020, text copyright Erica S. Perl, 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Community, resilience, and children’s creativity infuse every page of Erica S. Perl’s story that’s a wonderful Hanukkah read as well as a story families will want to share all year around. The apartment-house setting and the family’s just-moved-in situation combine to create a charming microcosm of making friends, getting to know new neighbors, and discovering the generosity of strangers. Rachel and Max, creative, close-knit, and accommodating, will captivate kids as they go along on their scavenger hunts for the makings of a homey Hanukkah celebration.

Perl’s substitutions—from birthday candles to French fries to a ukulele will appeal to readers. The repeated phrase “It was nice, but it didn’t feel quite like Hanukkah” applies to many make-do conditions and will resonate with children. It also provides suspense and a nice counterpoint for when the night does finally fulfill the Hanukkah feeling. Max and Rachel’s “Shamash Night” offers a message of gratitude not only for things but for friendship.

Shahar Kober’s warm-toned illustrations mirror the heartfelt story and the kindness of the diverse group of neighbors as they provide workable solutions to Max and Rachel’s requests. Images of Rachel and Max creating a homemade menorah, dreidel, and wrapping paper may inspire kids to design their own Hanukkah or other holiday decorations and traditional items. Kober’s cartoon-style characters are expressive, demonstrating their disappointment in missing their well-loved Hanukkah things but more so their cheerful acceptance of what the neighbors can provide. Kids will enjoy watching the antics of the family’s cat, who likes to be in the middle of the action, but also is happy to make do with a moving box as a new napping spot.

A heartwarming and joyful Hanukkah story with messages of kindness, generosity, acceptance and a loving sibling relationship, The Ninth Night of Hanukkah is highly recommended for all home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1454940883

Discover more about Erica S. Perl and her books on her website.

To learn more about Shahar Kober, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Get Ready for Hanukkah Activity

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Star of David Ornament

 

Kids can add a bit of sparkle to their Hanukkah celebrations with this Star of David ornament craft.

Supplies

  • 6 mini craft sticks
  • 2 round lids from clear plastic deli containers
  • Silver glitter
  • Blue craft paint
  • Clear-drying glue
  • Thin ribbon or string, 8 – 10 inches long

Directions

To Make the Star of David

  1. Paint the craft sticks with the blue paint, let dry
  2. Glue three of the craft sticks together to form a triangle; repeat with the other three sticks
  3. Glue the two triangles together to create a Star of David
  4. Glue a short length of ribbon to the top back of the Star of David

To Make the Case

  1. Apply a thin layer of clear-drying glue to the top, indented side of one of the lids
  2. Sprinkle the lid with the glitter, let dry
  3. When the glue is dry, center the Star of David in the lid with the ribbon trailing over the rim of the lid. The Star of David will be free hanging inside the case from the ribbon.
  4. Glue the rim of the indented side of the second lid to the rim of the first lid
  5. When dry, tie the ribbon into a loop for hanging

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-ninth-night-of-hanukkah-cover

You can find The Ninth Night of Hanukkah at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

November 9 – Celebrating the Election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

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About the Holiday

This week the people of the United States elected a new President and Vice President who will lead our nation for the next four years. In many ways this election was historic, from the most votes ever cast for a presidential candidate to its taking place during a pandemic that required extraordinary measures to ensure everyone could participate and commitment on the part of voters. Most significant, however, was the election of Kamala Harris, the first woman, the first Black, and the first South Asian to hold the office of Vice President. To celebrate the 2020 election, I’ve reviewed two outstanding biographies, one about Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the other about Kamala Harris.

Joey: The Story of Joe Biden

Written by Dr. Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull | Illustrated by Amy June Bates

 

With a gift for storytelling and an ear for the kinds of details that will draw kids in, Jill Biden introduces young readers to her husband and soon-to-be President of the United States, Joe Biden, at the age of eight. Even at this young age, Joe—or Joey as he was then called—demonstrated a fun-loving competitive spirit, maturity, daring, and sense of responsibility that would take him far in life. How competitive? Despite being the smallest boy on any of his teams, “he was always ready for the ball.” How daring? Take your pick: the time he and his friends hopped “from rooftop to rooftop of the garages” in his neighborhood after seeing a Tarzan movie; the time he swung on a rope “over a construction site without a net;” or when he shimmied to the top of the slippery, swaying flag pole at the football field.”

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, text copyright Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, 2020. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Where did he learn these qualities? From his mom who always said, “‘Bravery resides in every heart, and yours is fierce and clear.’” And from his dad who encouraged Joey to “‘Get up! Get up!’” whenever he stumbled. To find work, Joey’s family moved, but Joey always had friends in his siblings, especially his younger sister, Valerie.

As he grew older Joey learned about world news and the rudiments of politics at the family dinner table, adding his opinions to those of the adults. At school, though bullies made fun of Joey’s stutter, that sometimes made talking difficult. Instead of taking it, Joey defended himself and others who were being bullied. He also devised ways to practice talking more smoothly. 

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, text copyright Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, 2020. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

When his dreams of attending the Catholic high school seemed out of reach financially, Joey applied for a work-study program that allowed him to attend in exchange for duties such as painting the fence, pulling weeds, and washing windows. High school was also where he grew a foot taller and became the star of the basketball and football teams. Here he exchanged Joey for Joe. His sense of fairness and equality led him to stand up for his African American football teammate when the owner of the local diner would not serve him, and in a nod to his future profession, he was elected class president “during his junior and senior years.”

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, text copyright Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, 2020. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

As the first in his family to go to college, Joe was “promptly elected president of his freshman class.” He learned about the struggles of blacks in America while working “as the only white lifeguard at a pool in an all-black neighborhood” during “the time of segregation and the struggle for civil rights.” Joe graduated with a law degree, and at the age of twenty-nine he “launched an unlikely quest to become a senator from Delaware”—even though the required age was thirty. “Against all the odds, Joe became one of the youngest people ever elected to the United States Senate.” Reelected five times, “he was powerful and respected.”

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, text copyright Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, 2020. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Then “after more than three decades of serving his country in the Senate, he was chosen by Barak Obama to run as his vice president. They won, energizing the nation,” and after eight years of serving together, President Obama called Joe, “‘the best vice president America’s ever had.’” In 2019, Joe announced his candidacy for president of the United States, calling the election a “‘battle for the soul of America.’—and Joe Biden was ready to fight it.”

Back matter includes family photographs, an extensive timeline of Joe Biden’s life and government service, inspirational “Bidenisms, sources for the quotations used in the text, and a bibliography.

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, text copyright Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, 2020. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

For parents, teachers, and other adults looking to introduce children to the next president of the United States with an in-depth look at his life, his influences, and his vast experience, Dr. Jill Biden’s Joey: The Story of Joe Biden shines with an intimate portrait of his astonishing life. With specific examples that will resonate with children, Biden portrays the qualities and experience that make him the right person to lead our country during these times and demonstrates his long history of concern for all Americans. Conversational and folksy, Biden’s storytelling makes this an uplifting read aloud that will captivate listeners. The book provides an excellent opportunity to spark further research into Joe Biden’ life and government service as well a conversation-starter for adults to discuss the importance of family, character, hard work, perseverance, and community.

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, 2020, text copyright Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, 2020. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Amy June Bates’ watercolor, gouache, and pencil illustrations are stunning, taking readers from Joey’s neighborhood in Scranton, Pennsylvania—where they can see some of the feats of daring Joey was famous for and how he interacted with friends and siblings—to Delaware, the state that informed his interest in politics and sense of community service. Through Bates’ realistic images, children swing on the rope over the construction site, sit among his siblings as they watch TV, and join in at the dinner table for influential family discussions. Bates also depicts Biden’s struggles with bullies and his stutter. Kids follow him up a ladder to wash windows and to the high school gridiron to watch Joe pull away from the opposing team to score the winning touchdown. As Biden runs for and takes on responsibilities in the Senate, readers are there too. In Biden’s face and stance, Bates clearly portrays his confidence, optimism, intelligence, and pride in a lifetime of serving the American people.

A superb biography of our next president and one that will inspire a new generation of activists and public servants, Joey: The Story of Joe Biden is a must for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, Paula Wiseman Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534480537

You can connect with Dr. Jill Biden on Twitter.

Discover more about Kathleen Krull and her books on her website.

To learn more about Amy June Bates, her books, and her art, visit her website.

You can find Joey: The Story of Joe Biden at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kamala-harris-rooted-in-justice-cover

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice

Written by Nikki Grimes | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

 

Eve, a black girl, comes home from school in Oakland, California upset because Calvin, a boy in her class, said that girls can’t be President. Her mother tells her that Calvin is wrong and shows her a newspaper article about Kamala Harris, who “lives right here in Oakland and hopes to be President one day.” Eve’s mom begins to tell her daughter Kamala’s story, which began with “a strong black-and-brown braid coiling from India, where her mother, Shyamala, was born; to Jamaica, where her father, Donald, was born;” to Berkely, California and finally to Oakland.

She goes on to reveal that even as a baby “Kamala was like clay her parents molded for action,” as they took her along on marches for civil rights and to speeches given by Martin Luther King Jr. Kamala listened and learned words like peace, justice, freedom. On a trip to Zambia to visit her grandparents, Kamala learned that “fighting for justice ran in the family.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kamala-harris-rooted-in-justice-lotus

Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Then when Kamala was seven her parents divorced, and Kamala, her younger sister Maya, and their mother moved to “‘the flatlands,’ the black working-class area in Berkeley.” From here, Kamala was bussed to Thousand Oaks Elementary in the “wealthy white part of town….,” where, she met “kids who were rich and poor, black and white; kids who celebrated holidays she’d never even heard of,” and learned to “count to ten in many different languages.” Here, Eve interrupts to excitedly tell her mother that their next door neighbor Guadalupe has taught her how to count in Spanish.

Kamala also learned from Mrs. Regina Shelton, a neighbor whom Kamala stayed with after school. Mrs. Shelton introduced her to Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman. She encouraged her pursuits and instilled confidence in her. Just as influential on young Kamala were the family’s weekly visits to the “Rainbow Sign, a cultural center celebrating black art, music, books, and film. James Baldwin spoke there, Maya Angelou read there, and Nina Simone sang there.” Nina’s song “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” particularly resonated with Kamala.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kamala-harris-rooted-in-justice-young-kamala

Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

On Sundays Kamala and Maya visited their father and went to the 23rd Avenue Church of God, where, along with singing in the children’s choir, Kamala learned from the Bible “that God asks us to speak up for those who can’t, to defend the rights of the poor and needy, like some lawyers do.” Maybe, Kamala thought, she would follow in her uncle Sherman’s footsteps and be that kind of lawyer too. Eve wonders if when she makes sandwiches for the homeless she’s helping out too. Her mom tells her yes.

When Kamala’s mother accepted a job in Montréal, Canada, Kamala’s life changed again. One thing that stayed the same, however, was Kamala’s sense of justice. For example when the apartment building manager wouldn’t allow the kids to play soccer on the lawn, she and Maya picketed until he changed his mind. 

Although Kamala adjusted to life in Canada, when it came time to go to college, she returned to the United States to attend Howard University like one of her heroes, Thurgood Marshall. Kamala felt at home at Howard. She won a seat in the student government, competed on the debate team, interned at the Federal Trade Commission, did research at the National Archives, and on weekends joined protests against apartheid in South Africa.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kamala-harris-rooted-in-justice-moving

Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

As a sophomore, Kamala spent her summer as an intern for Senator Alan Cranston “learning from someone whose footsteps echoed in the halls of power every day.” She went on to study law at Hastings College of the Law, leading the Black Law Students Association as president and working to improve the chances that black graduates would be hired by the best companies in the country.

In order to practice law, Kamala had one more hurdle to overcome: the California Bar exam. Kamala failed in her first attempt, but it taught her an important lesson about digging deep and trying harder – a lesson that Eve understands. On her second try, she passed. Since then Kamala’s trajectory has been steadily upward. “First, Deputy District Attorney. Next, the first female District Attorney of San Francisco. Then, the first black woman Attorney General of California” and eventually the “second black woman voted into the US Senate.”

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

As Senator, Kamala has fought for workers, women’s rights, and immigrant children. Then in 2019, she announced her candidacy for President of the United States. But running a presidential campaign takes a lot of money. When she and her team realized that they would not be able to sustain a campaign, she decided to give up her quest for the 2020 presidential nomination while still looking “forward to all the good work she could still do as Senator Harris.”

While the biography ends before the election and with the question, “Will she ever get to call the White House home?” the next sentence: “Kamala Harris is still writing her American story” looks forward to a future we will all be following. And what about Eve? She knows the message of Kamala’s life and dreams: “‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’” That lesson and that Calvin is wrong about a girl’s ability to become the President.

A detailed timeline of Kamala Harris’s life and a list of resources follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kamala-harris-rooted-in-justice-senator

Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2020, text copyright Nikki Grimes, 2020. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Nikki Grimes’ compelling biography of Kamala Harris lyrically outlines the importance that ideas of justice, freedom, and inclusion play in both her personal and professional life. Children will be especially captivated by Grimes’ comprehensive and intimate look at Kamala’s childhood and the people, experiences, and places that influenced her education, character, long commitment to equality, and steady focus on achieving her dreams. Specific examples of the large and smaller issues Kamala has fought for throughout her life instill in young readers the knowledge that they too can make a difference. Framed by Eve’s disagreement with Calvin and her interjections about certain aspects of Kamala’s life, the story speaks directly to the reader, creating in them the kind of confidence and reassurance that has served Kamala well. The final lines offer encouragement and inspiration to tomorrow’s leaders.

Laura Freeman’s textured, realistic illustrations introduce Kamala Harris in the context of her family, the causes they put their hearts and voices into, and the communities that nurtured her. As a child, Kamala’s confidence and intelligence are evident as she learns about her family’s activism in Zambia, rides to school on the bus, listens to Mrs. Shelton and Nina Simone, and gets involved in activities at church, in college, and in law school. Images of Kamala as an adult depict her familiar smile, thoughtfulness, poise, and self-confidence. Freeman’s collage-style imagery of the people who have influenced Kamala are particularly powerful reminders of the legacy that parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors, and leaders in society imprint on people from childhood and throughout life.

A beautiful and inspiring biography, Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice is an exciting introduction to our next Vice President and is sure to encourage discussion, stir dreams of greatness, and motivate girls and children of color to follow in her footsteps. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534462670

Discover more about Nikki Grimes, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about Laura Freeman, her books, and her art, visit her website.

You can find Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support our local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 Picture Book Review

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