January 10 – It’s National Hot Tea Month

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About the Holiday

I must confess that this is one of my favorite holidays. To me there’s nothing better than waking up with a well-steeped cup of tea, writing while a favorite mug brimming with hot tea sweetened with honey sits nearby, enjoying scones with clotted cream and jam and a hot cuppa…well…you get the picture. People have drunk tea since earliest times for its soothing and medicinal properties. Mellower than coffee and available in endless varieties and tastes, hot tea is just the thing for relaxing moments. Today, enjoy your favorite tea or try a new kind! There’s a world of tea to be discovered – as today’s book reveals!

Thank you to Greystone Books for sharing a copy of Teatime Around the World with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

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 make 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.

National Hot Tea Month 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

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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

January 3 – It’s International Quality of Life Month

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About the Holiday

How one achieves their definition of a good quality of life may differ for every person, but in general it encompasses being happy and satisfied with one’s relationships, work, living conditions, and self. Whether you find happiness and quality of life in outdoor or indoor pursuits, with others or alone, at work or at home, this month’s holiday gives you time to get in touch with your inner quiet place and reflect on changes or improvements to bring you more peace and happiness in life.

I’d like to thank Berbay Publishing for sharing a copy of Nobody Owns the Moon with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Special Note: As I have been asked to take on extra shifts as a staff member at my local public library due to personnel shortages, I will be taking a break from posting daily reviews over the next coming months. In between new reviews, I invite you to explore all of the holidays, author and illustrator interviews, activities, and, of course, the wonderful books featured on Celebrate Picture Books.

Nobody Owns the Moon

By Tohby Riddle

 

Upon the opening pages readers are treated to an engaging treatise on the success (or not so) of certain animals trying to “make a life for itself in cities.” The fox, we learn, is especially adept because it is “quick-witted and able to eat a variety of foods.” We are then introduced to one such city-dweller, Clive Prendergast – a self-named fox because his real name “can only be pronounced by foxes.”

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Copyright Tohby Riddle, 2021, courtesy of Berbay Publishing.

Clive lives in a small apartment and works on a factory production line. At night he takes to the streets, visiting food stalls and watching the interesting goings-on. Clive has a few friends, but the one he sees the most is Humphrey, a donkey who is “one of those creatures that live in cities with less success than foxes” and “doesn’t always have a fixed address.” While Humphrey has had jobs, he has trouble keeping them. Right now he’s working as a piano removalist.

One day Clive saw Humphrey sitting on the stone steps of “a statue of a great conqueror.” Clive thought he looked tired and underfed. Then he noticed a blue envelop sticking out of Humphrey’s tote bag. It turned out that Humphrey had found it in the street and planned on eating it, but thinking Clive was also hungry he offered it to him without a second thought. When Clive opened the envelope, he found two tickets to that night’s performance at the theatre. They should go, he said.

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Copyright Tohby Riddle, 2021, courtesy of Berbay Publishing.

“That night Humphrey and Clive attended the premier of Nobody Owns the Moon – the latest play by the city’s most celebrated playwright. Before the show, ticket-holders were treated to hors d’ oeuvres and punch. Then they were shown to their front-row balcony seats. The play was wonderful, full of humor and poignancy. Tears filled Humphrey’s eyes at the show’s “bittersweet ending” and again as they enjoyed a beverage and “large slice of cake in the theatre’s elegant restaurant.”

Filled with the wonder of the evening, Clive and Humphrey headed out into the “glimmering melee of lights and sounds that was their city at night. “‘This is our town!'” they exclaimed to each other, and before they went “their separate ways, Humphrey gave Clive a big hug goodnight.”

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Copyright Tohby Riddle, 2021, courtesy of Berbay Publishing.

Immersive and openhearted, Tohby Riddle’s poignant friendship tale is as surprising and inclusive as the invitation Humphrey finds. Opening with lines that could come straight from a nature documentary, the story quickly becomes interwoven with an air of mystery and anticipation as Clive Prendergast and Humphrey are introduced. Riddle’s inclusion of smart details, such as Clive’s fox name being unpronounceable to humans and Humphrey’s job that takes advantage of a donkey’s strong back, adds a verisimilitude that will delight readers. The emotional core of the story comes with Clive’s and Humphrey’s friendship, which is equitable and caring and full of generosity. The discovery and use of the theater invitation ushers in sumptuous scenes of a glittering theater, delicious food, and a life-affirming performance while also touching on the importance of satisfying the body and the soul, however one defines this.

Equally captivating are Riddle’s collage-style illustrations, which incorporate sly humor and thought-provoking perspectives. The book opens with an illustration of Clive Prendergast lounging in a comfortable armchair between Vincent van Gogh’s painting “A Wheatfield, with Cypresses” and a window which frames a view of the city that cleverly mirrors the famous artwork. Clive’s position suggests his comfort in both environments. Humphrey’s difficulties fitting in, on the other hand, are depicted in an Italian restaurant where, distracted for a moment, the plates of spaghetti and meatballs he’s carrying tip precariously over a customer sitting under a photograph of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Other images that contribute to the depth and atmosphere of this book are theater posters advertising Vaudeville and magic acts, Russian nesting dolls and fresh foods for sale in Clive’s multicultural neighborhood, and the copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass next to a view-master in Humphrey’s tote bag.

The city’s human inhabitants are all depicted in flat grays and browns while the animals – pigeons, a crocodile, a dancing bear – are portrayed in textured full color. This dichotomy begins to fade at the theater, where a waiter in formal dress offers Humphrey hors d’ oeuvres, in the balcony row where Clive and Humphrey sit, and in the restaurant after the show, a change that offers opportunities for readers to talk about acceptance and how we look at others. The moving ending is eloquent in it’s simple embrace of individuality and acceptance.

A touching, multi-level story that will enchant and impact readers, Nobody Owns the Moon will become a favorite and is a must for home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Berbay Publishing, 2021 | ISBN 978-0994384195

Discover more about Tohby Riddle, his books, and his art on his website.

International Quality of Life Activity

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Share a Smile Cards

 

Life is better when you share smiles with those you know—and those you don’t! Try it! When you’re out today at school or other places, give someone a smile. You can be sure that you will have made their day and your day better! These cards are another way you can share a smile. 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.

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You can find Nobody Owns the Moon at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 28 – Celebrate 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.

Thanks to Sterling Children’s Books for sharing a copy of The Ninth Night of Hanukkah with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

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.

Celebrate Hanukkah Activity

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Star of David Decoration

 

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

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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

Picture Book Review

November 19 – Get Ready for Hanukkah

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About Today’s Post

I’m happy to be spotlighting four books for Hanukkah found on the Holiday Highlights Fall 2021 list created by the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL). Overseen by Heidi Rabinowitz – Library Director, Feldman Children’s Library at Congregation B’nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida and Host of The Book of Life: A  Podcast About Jewish Kidlit (Mostly) – the Holiday Highlights committee selects titles that “exemplify the highest standards of authentic Jewish representation and holiday spirit in both writing and illustration. A committee of expert judges recommends these books for use by families, in schools, and in libraries. AJL hopes that the publishing world will look to the quality of these examples when creating new children’s books about Jewish holidays.” Read the Fall 2021 Holiday Highlights List here.

I’m also thrilled to share Heidi’s review of Is It Hanukkah Yet? that originally appeared on The Sydney Taylor Shmooze, another project of the Association of Jewish Libraries. You can find the link to Heidi’s review and more information about The Shmooze with her review below.

Red and Green and Blue and White

Written by Lee Wind | Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

 

On a block where every house was decorated in red and green for Christmas, “one house shone Blue and White” for Hanukkah. At Isaac’s house, he had helped his family decorate their window with a garland, a Star of David, and a menorah. Across the street, Isaac’s friend Teresa “helped her family trim their Christmas tree” displayed in the front window. While Isaac liked to write and Teresa liked to draw, they both “loved playing in the snow, counting down to the holidays, and thought you couldn’t have too many sprinkles on a cookie.”

At night Teresa turned on her Christmas tree and “her house glowed Red and Green.” Isaac lit his menorah, and “his house glowed Blue and White.” Later that night when everyone was sleeping, however, someone crept up to Isaac’s house and threw a rock through the front window. Glass flew and the menorah flickered out.

When the police came, they and Isaac’s parents talked for a long time. His dad decided it would be safer for Isaac and his sister to sleep in their room. Isaac’s mother thought maybe they shouldn’t light the menorah again, but Isaac “knew it would be like hiding they were Jewish. That didn’t feel right.”

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Image copyright Paul O. Zelinsky, 2021, text copyright Lee Wind, 2021. Courtesy of Levine Querido.

The next night, Isaac did light the menorah, and his house glowed once more. Watching from across the street, Teresa was glad to see the menorah shine again. She drew a picture of a menorah, added “For Isaac.” And hung it in her front window. “Through the paper, the light shone Blue and White.” Others saw Teresa’s sign and her idea grew and grew and grew. Isaac’s friends joined in. Pictures of menorahs appeared in the windows of the school, the library, and downtown shops. The story even appeared on TV and in newspapers.

In the three weeks from the time Teresa made her sign, more than 10,000 windows glowed with the “true spirit of the holidays—the true meaning of community” as the town celebrated “Christmas tree and Menorah light, / red and green and blue and white / stronger together, shining bright.”

An Author’s Note following the story reveals that the book was inspired by actual events in December 1993 in Billings, Montana and encourages readers to be supporting UPstanders instead of BYstanders when they see injustice or other bad things happening to someone. To learn more about the story behind Red and Green and Blue and White, readers can visit Lee Wind’s website.

Lee Wind’s retelling of a true story of a girl and then a whole town who stand up to antisemitism and violence makes for a compelling and emotional read aloud that will move young readers and empower them to fight against prejudice, bullying, and injustice wherever they see it. Through his comparisons of Isaac and Teresa’s favorite activities and their pre-holiday preparations, Wind emphasizes the two families’ similarities, reminding readers that while people’s beliefs and celebrations may be different, we all want the same things from our friendships, family, and life in general.

Teresa’s action in support of Isaac may remind many children of their role in creating and displaying signs to thank frontline workers during the not-so-long-ago lockdown, which also demonstrated kids’ natural empathy and desire to connect with their community. Wind’s factual storytelling will captivate readers and echoes the speed with which Teresa’s idea spread to thousands of homes and beyond.

Paul O. Zelinsky uses aerial and angled perspectives as well as evocative two-page spreads that connect Isaac and Teresa and their homes and to invite readers into their similar, yet different holiday preparations. The opening spread of a nighttime look at the block where Isaac lives glows peacefully with red, green, blue, white, and gold lights. Along the outside edge, however, the grey clouds from the title page encroach, a symbolic image of the trouble to come. As kids see Isaac’s and Teresa’s families simultaneously decorating their homes, they will notice how similar the silhouettes are and that a star also features prominently in each holiday.

Midway through the story, Zelinsky’s vibrant, cheerful, and carefree illustrations are interrupted by a dark image of a shadowy, gloved hand hurling a rock at Isaac’s front window. The soft lines used previously turn angled as shards erupt from the shattered glass. With the relighting of the menorah the next night, the vivid colors resume as Teresa and Isaac share their idea at school and it spreads throughout the community until the final spreads depict a town solidly in support of their Jewish neighbors. Special mention must be made of Zelinsky’s use of color as a unifying symbol. The title colors appear often—in Isaac’s thoughts, Teresa’s art, clothing, food, snowbanks, and town buildings. Gold also becomes a universal and hopeful accent, defining school desks, library bookshelves and, in the final spread, outlining rooftops as far as the eye can see. A blue river winds its way through the town toward the horizon, where the sun is just rising, tinging the clouds now high and fair with golden light.

A powerful and uplifting true story that every child (and adult) should know, Red and Green and Blue and White is a must for home, school, and library collections.

Ages 4 – 7 

Levine Querido, 2021 | ISBN 978-1646140879

Discover more about Lee Wind and his books, visit his website.

To learn more about Paul O. Zelinsky, his books, and his art, visit his website.

You can find Red and Green and Blue and White 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-hanukkah-at-valley-forge-cover

Hanukkah at Valley Forge

Written by Stephen Krensky | Illustrated by Greg Harlin

 

In the bitter cold, the general looked down from the stony ridge at Valley Forge and worried about his men. They had been at war for more than two years, and now some were without weapons while others lacked coats and shoes. “And nobody had enough to eat. ‘An army of skeletons,’ one witness had called them.” As the general walked passed the soldiers’ huts, he noticed one man light a candle. “The flame flickered for a moment and then grew steady” as the soldier spoke softly. The general went in, startling the man. He was surprised and nervous to see General Washington there.

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Image copyright Greg Harlin, 2006, text copyright Stephen Krensky, 2006, revised edition, 2021. Courtesy of Apples & Honey Press.

When General Washington mentioned the cold weather, the soldier agreed, but said it was no colder than his home in Poland. “‘And there not only is the weather cold, the laws are cold as well. If my family were to light a candle tonight, they would have to do it in secret. But that will not stop them, for this is the first night of Hanukkah.” General Washington had never heard of Hanukkah and asked the soldier to tell him more. The soldier began to tell him the history of the holiday beginning when “the people of Israel were ruled by Antiochus, a Greek king…who wanted them to worship…Greek gods.” Washington well understood the desire to be free of foreign rulers.

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Image copyright Greg Harlin, 2006, text copyright Stephen Krensky, 2006, revised edition, 2021. Courtesy of Apples & Honey Press.

The soldier continued to tell him about how the High Priest, Mattathais drew his sword and fought against the forbidden actions the Greek soldiers were forcing on the Israelites. While many lives were lost, “Mattathais escaped, and he and his five sons, the Maccabees, became the leaders of a rebellion.” It seemed that this small band was no match for the much bigger army. Washington knew this feeling too as declaring Independence from England was not the same as getting it. “‘We too have a cruel enemy who leaves us only with the choice of brave resistance or abject submission.’”

The soldier related how Judah inspired his small troops by reminding them that while the Greeks trusted in their weapons, the Israelites “‘trusted in the Almighty God.’” They won that crucial battle and many more, finally defeating them. To celebrate they restored their temple and went to light the menorah. They only had enough oil to last one day, and “‘once lit, the menorah was never supposed to go out.’” They lit it anyway, believing God would lead them to more oil. But there was none to be found. For eight days they searched, and all during that time the menorah stayed lit.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanukkah-at-Valley-Forge-menorah

Image copyright Greg Harlin, 2006, text copyright Stephen Krensky, 2006, revised edition, 2021. Courtesy of Apples & Honey Press.

The soldier then told General Washington how he would light one candle each night for eight nights to honor that miracle from long ago. As Washington got ready to leave, he felt inspired by the Maccabees’ success and was heartened to think that “‘miracles may still be possible.’” He left the soldier in a more positive spirit than he’d felt in a long time as the Hanukkah candles glowed late into the night.

An Author’s Note reveals the history of this story that is based on facts and a conversation recorded by the stepdaughter of Michael Hart, a Jewish merchant from Pennsylvania, with whom George Washington dined in 1778. Stephen Krensky also relates that some of General Washington’s dialog in the story was borrowed from his own writings to echo his real voice.

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Image copyright Greg Harlin, 2006, text copyright Stephen Krensky, 2006, revised edition, 2021. Courtesy of Apples & Honey Press.

Stephen Krensky’s beautiful telling of the Hanukkah story framed by the historical struggles of the American revolutionary soldiers at Valley Forge makes for a poignant tale about the meaning of Hanukkah as well as the power of belief and miracles. Krensky’s evocative storytelling is enriched with sensory details that convey the brutal conditions and seemingly hopeless circumstances faced by both the Israelite and American soldiers. The juxtaposition allows children (those who celebrate Hanukkah as well as those who may be unfamiliar with the holiday) to understand and appreciate the soldiers’ successes against the odds and how the miracle of Hanukkah continues to inspire. Lovely metaphorical descriptions connect the light from the Polish soldier’s Hanukkah candles to the Maccabees and to anyone searching for strength and encouragement. As readers finish the book, they are heartened with the knowledge that light always triumphs.

Greg Harlin’s affecting paintings relay the frozen bleakness of Valley Forge as General Washington gazes down on the makeshift wooden huts, the cold made obvious in the horse’s windswept mane and clouds of breath. As the soldiers huddle around a meager fire and trudge through the snow gripping their tattered cloaks around them, readers can almost feel the icy temperatures. How warm and welcome then is the glow from the candles that attracts General Washington’s attention as the Polish man celebrates Hanukkah quietly on his own. Portraits of the soldier and Washington will captivate kids’ attention and comparing the early images with the final picture of the two together can lead into discussions about trust and equality.

Several finely detailed and impactful illustrations depict the subjugation of the Israelites under Greek rule and the moment when Judah takes up arms against it. Two following page spreads demonstrate the similarities between the sizes of the American and the Israelite troops. Readers will be interested in images of the temple under restoration and its original menorah. The heart of the story is told in the final pages, where the Hanukkiah and Shamash candles glow, dispelling the gloom both in Washington’s mind and outside, as the Polish soldier celebrates Hanukkah.

Newly released in a slightly revised edition from the 2006 original, Hanukkah at Valley Forge, the winner of the 2007 Sydney Taylor Book Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries, is a moving and beautifully conceived and illustrated story for the holiday and any time of the year. The book is a must for school and public library collections and is highly recommended for all home libraries as well.

Ages 4 – 8

Apples & Honey Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1681155845

Discover more about Stephen Krensky and his books on his website.

You can find Hanukkah at Valley Forge at these booksellers

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To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

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Is It Hanukkah Yet?

Written by Nancy Krulik | Illustrated by Monique Dong

 

Reviewed by Heidi Rabinowitz

The exuberant first person voice of a nameless little girl makes the controlled vocabulary come alive in this early reader. The child and her grandparents happily prepare for the holiday, and celebrate when the parents arrive home from work at sundown. Typical Hanukkah activities such as making latkes, reading about the Maccabees, lighting candles, playing dreidel, and eating sufganiyot are woven naturally into the story. Grandma gifts her granddaughter the music box they play with at her house (“Now you can hear our special song anytime you like!”),  which pleasantly emphasizes relationships instead of consumerism.

Originally published in 2000 with pictures by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan, this new edition has energetic, rounded illustrations by Monique Dong, arranged with plenty of white space to give the eyes of early readers a break. The storyline has also been updated: in this version, both parents work while the grands babysit, and Grandpa cooks the latkes. In addition, we see Grandma using her cell phone to take a photo, a nicely modern touch.

As a typical story of a white Jewish Ashkenazi middle class North American family celebrating Hanukkah, this book hits all the right beats. As an early reader, the authentic and positive Jewish content is extremely welcome.

Ages 4 – 6

Random House, 2021 | ISBN 978-0593375846

Discover more about Nancy Krulik and her books on her website.

You can find Heidi Rabinowitz’s original review of Is It Hanukkah Yet? as well as many more books for readers from baby to young adult at The Sydney Taylor Shmooze.

Reviewer Heidi Rabinowitz is one of the co-admins of The Sydney Taylor Shmooze, along with Susan Kusel and Chava Pinchuck. She hosts The Book of Life Podcast: A Show About Jewish Kidlit (Mostly) at bookoflifepodcast.com. Heidi is Past President of the Association of Jewish Libraries, and Library Director at Congregation B’nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida.
 

 

You can find Is It Hanukkah Yet? at these booksellers

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To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

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Hello, Hanukkah!

By Susan S. Novich

 

Little Badger is excited to celebrate Hanukkah with little ones in this bright board book that shares the traditions of the holiday while inviting kids to count and point out the colors of the candles as Badger places them in the menorah. Each page spread names one of the customs of Hanukkah as Badger and his friend – a bird with a whimsical crest of feathers – participate in the activity then lights a succeeding number of candles from one to eight.

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Copyright Susan S. Novich, 2021, courtesy of Kar-Ben.

Little Badger is an enthusiastic friend to celebrate with as he and Bird play dreidel, sing songs, make latkes, and read the story of the Maccabees. “Little Badger noshes on chocolate gelt and lights six pink Hanukkah candles” on his way to adding jelly to sufganiyot and saying the blessings over the eight candles in the glowing menorah. 

Susan S. Novich’s short, active sentences are perfect for the targeted audience, and give adults the opportunity to explain more about each tradition as they read together. Children will love Novich’s textured paper-cut, collage-style illustrations, which shine with captivating perspectives, movement, and the joy of the holiday. In addition to counting the candles and learning colors, little ones will giggle at Badgers silly slippers, and enthusiastically recognize other familiar household items. 

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Copyright Susan S. Novich, 2021, courtesy of Kar-Ben.

A fun and meaningful way to share the holiday with the youngest readers, Hello, Hanukkah! would make a wonderful gift and is highly recommended for home, preschool, and public library collections.

Ages 1 – 4

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2021 | ISBN 978-1728403441

Discover more about Susan S. Novich, her books, and her art on her website.

For a signed copy of Hello, Hanukkah!, order from Books on the Square in Providence, RI.

 

You can also find Hello, Hanukkah! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Get Ready for Hanukkah Activity 

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Festival of Lights Word Search

 

Find 20 words related to Hanukkah celebrations in this printable puzzle!

Festival of Lights Word SearchFestival of Lights Word Search Solution 

Festival of Lights Word Search (Easier) |  Festival of Lights Word Search Solution (Easier)

Picture Book Review

October 14 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

From September 15th through October 15th National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.” From business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment, Hispanic and Latinx Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. You can learn more about the holiday and find cross-curricular resources for classrooms and homeschooling, videos, exhibitions, and much more from the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, the National Park Service, the National Gallery of Art, the Nationla Archives and more to use not only this month but throughout the year on the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Without Separation: Prejudice, Segregation, and the Case of Roberto Alvarez

Written by Larry Dane Brimmer | Illustrated by Maya Gonzalez

On January 5, 1931 twelve-year-old Roberto Alvarez was happy to be going back to Lemon Grove Grammar School after the Christmas vacation. But when he got there “the principal told Roberto and the other Mexican and Mexican American children that they did not belong there.” He told them to go to the new Mexican school on Olive Street, and when they arrived, their teachers and desks were already waiting for them.

This had all come about stealthily after the school district’s board of trustees received a letter from the parent-teacher association complaining that “the Mexican children didn’t understand English,” which “held back the white students.” The letter also said that the “Mexican children were unclean and endangered the health of every other student in the school.” The board decided to construct a separate school—but without telling the Mexican parents, fearing “trouble.”

But as the Olive Street school was being built, Mexican parents understood it true purpose of segregation and instructed their children not to attend, but to come home. Most of the kids, including Roberto did as their parents told them. “That January morning the Olive Street School stood almost empty, except for two teachers, three students, and many unoccupied desks.” Roberto believed he didn’t need a different school. While his parents had come from Mexico, he had been born in California and spoke English as well as any of the white students.

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Image copyright Maya Gonzalez, 2021, text copyright Larry Dane Brimmer, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

The Mexican parents formed the “Comité de Vecinos de Lemon Grove—the Lemon Grove Neighbors Committee”—to talk about the situation. They knew the new school had not been built to “help their students learn the English language and American customs, as the school board and newspapers claimed.” The only deciding factor of which school a child attended was the color of their skin.

The Comité de Vecinos acquired two lawyers, and on February 13, 1931 “Roberto brought the situation in Lemon Grove to the attention of the California Superior Court in San Diego” by filing a law suit against the Lemon Grove School board of trustees. His lawsuit asked that the school district stop discriminating against the Mexican students and allow them to return to the Lemon Grove School. The school board falsely stated that the students’ strike was “organized by Mexico or by groups in Mexico,” and the president told a reporter he knew that the district attorney of San Diego was on the school’s side.

In fact the San Diego district attorney represented the school board in its dealings with the court, saying that the Olive Street School was for “‘better instruction,’” a claim that was different from the minutes from the school board’s summer meetings. He then went on to say that having a school in their own neighborhood was safer since they didn’t have to cross the railroad tracks. But Roberto wanted to go to school with all of his friends—”brown and white.”

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Image copyright Maya Gonzalez, 2021, text copyright Larry Dane Brimmer, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

The trial began on March 10, 1931 in San Diego. The lawyers for the school board insisted that the new school was to “benefit the Mexican pupils…not to separate” them. Roberto’s lawyers countered this with the minutes from the board’s summer meetings.

The trial ended the next day, and the decision was handed over to the judge. Two days later, the judge handed down his ruling. He stated that “in the eyes of the law the Lemon Grove School District had no power to set up a separate school for Mexican children.” On April 16, 1931, the judge’s ruling became official and the school board was ordered to immediately admit Roberto Alvarez and all of the other Mexican students “‘without separation or segregation.’” Roberto knew he had to stand up for what was right, and as he and the other Mexican students returned to school, “this time all were welcomed.”

An extensive Author’s Note, complete with photographs of Roberto Alvarez, his third- and fourth-grade classmates in 1928, Roberto’s mother, Lemon Grove Grammar School and its principal, and Roberto in 1999, reveals more about this historical event, the people involved, and the political and social atmosphere in the US at the time. Larry Dane Brimmer also discusses other cases of school segregation and follows up with the consequences for Lemon Grove principal Jerome Green and the successful career enjoyed by Roberto Alvarez as an entrepreneur. Resources used in researching the book are also included.

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Image copyright Maya Gonzalez, 2021, text copyright Larry Dane Brimmer, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Larry Dane Brimmer’s compelling history of this landmark case and biography of Roberto Alvarez and all of the students and their parents who stood up for equal access to schooling is instructive and empowering. The fact that this issue and similar others continue to roil schools, workplaces, and communities, makes Without Separation a vital resource to educate children and adults on system racism and how it spreads.

Brimmer highlights the courage, intelligence, and acceptance that children display and inspires them to lend their voices to change injustice wherever they find it. Brimmer’s clear and precise storytelling allows children to understand the actions and discussions involved in the school board meetings, neighborhood committee meetings, and the trial without losing any of the story’s emotional impact.

Maya Gonzalez’s lovely folk-art illustrations present stylized-yet-realistic depictions of the citrus groves, the school, and the courtroom. Fashions and décor set the time period while also appearing appropriate today. Another portrayal of universality is accomplished in Gonzalez’s two-page spread of the board of trustees’ meeting, in which she pictures the members sitting at a table with only their feet and upper body showing. Not only is this group representative of the 1930 school board, but of the “faceless” masses and committees that often drive policy today. Many images of the Mexican community supporting each other shows readers what can be accomplished when people work together.

An important book that will resonate with its target audience, Without Separation: Prejudice, Segregation, and the Case of Roberto Alvarez is a must-addition to any home, classroom, school, and public library.

Ages 7 – 10 and up

Calkins Creek, 2021 | ISBN 978-1684371952

Discover more about Larry Dane Brimmer and his books on his website.

To learn more about Maya Gonzalez, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-without-separation-cover

You can find Without Separation: Prejudice, Segregation, and the Case of Roberto Alvarez at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 9 – It’s Family Meals Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday got its start in 2015 and was designed as a way to support families in enjoying more meals made with fresh ingredients together. Over the years National Family Meals Month™ has gained recognition and grown into a social movement that promotes family bonding and education. Studies show that children who eat meals as a family are happier, less likely to get into trouble, and do better in school. To learn more about the Family Meals Movement and how you can celebrate this month and all year around, visit the Family Meals Movement website.

The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup

Written by Hunter Liguore | Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

 

A little girl stands at the stove watching her Nanni stir a big metal pot. She asks her Nanni what’s in the pot and learns that there are seeds inside. How can that be? She wonders. They are the “‘seeds that grew up to vegetables,’” Nanni tells her and then reveals that “‘there are also gardeners in the pot.’” That seems impossible the girl thinks. How can that be? So her grandmother tells her about the gardeners that raised the vegetables, the soil and rain, and the sun, the moon, and the stars that are also in the pot.

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

The little girl is catching on. She sees them all too and can hear the buzz of the bees that “pollinate the flowers, that grow up to be vegetables, planted by the gardeners, with their gentle hands.” She stands on tiptoe to see what else is in the pot. It swirls with the farm workers who “make footprints in the rich soil, carrying boxes full of vegetables to the, delivery trucks, boats, and trains.”

You might think that’s all the pot can hold, but there’s more. There are the merchants who “work in teams to bring the baskets of farm vegetables to the market” and the onlookers, “‘curious to see what they bought.’” The little girl thinks that must be everything, but Nanni takes another look and discovers a bus inside the pot. “‘A BUS, Nan! How can there be a bus inside the pot?’”

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

This is the bus Nanni took to the market. And what’s more, the bus driver, all the passengers, and everything they passed in all the neighborhoods they drove through on their way to the market are inside the pot too. “‘Wow, Nan!’” the girl exclaims. Could there be anything else? Nanni thinks and then a beaming smile crosses her face. Her granddaughter catches her excitement and asks “‘What, Nanni? What else did you see inside the pot?’”

“‘Love,’” Nan answers. The love of all the grandmothers and mothers who passed the recipe down through the generations just so she could make the soup for her own granddaughter. The little girl wants to learn the recipe too. But Nan tells her she must be able to remember everything that goes into the pot. I do know, the girl assures her. “‘The whole world.’”

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

Little ones will listen wide-eyed to Hunter Liguore’s whimsical tale that gently educates while building page upon page to a tender climax with plenty of humor along the way. The sweet and playful relationship between the girl and her Nanni will charm children and the idea of how the world is connected will resonate with kids beyond the soup pot and inform their view of the world. Liguore’s dialogue-rich text that reflects the cadences of real conversations with kids makes the story a perfect read aloud.

Juxtaposing illustrations with a retro vibe next to lovely fanciful drawings, Vikki Zhang mirrors the intergenerational theme of the story while more than satisfying readers curiosity about all of the quirky ingredients in Nanni’s soup. Kids are first invited into Nanni’s kitchen, a wonder that combines both old world and modern touches. In three clever illustrations, Zhang imagines the gardeners and a café inhabiting stylized cooking pots, and other “ingredients,” such as farm workers, modes of transportation, and nearby neighborhoods are presented in intricately detailed fantastical watercolors that kids and adults will want to linger over. A final image of Nan and the little girl’s heritage told through photographs, fine china, and jewelry is a loving look at all of the Nan’s, mothers, and daughters who have left a lasting legacy in their recipe.

A beautiful and fun book for adults—and especially grandparents—to share with children, The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup would make a meaningful gift and a welcome addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Yeehoo Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1953458063

Discover more about Hunter Liguore and her books on her website. You can find a Teaching Guide and Lesson Plan Activity Kit for teachers, homeschoolers, or just to enjoy at home on Hunter’s site here.

To learn more about Vikki Zhang, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Family Meals 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 puzzle?

Souper Maze Puzzle  | Souper Maze Solution!

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You can find The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 8 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Do you have friends you haven’t seen or talked to in a while? Is there someone new at work or school who could use a friend to show them the ropes or grab lunch with? If so, this month’s holiday gives you the opportunity to reach out and say hi. Instituted a decade ago by the Oddfellows organization in the UK, Friendship Month is a super time to show kindness to those you know and those you don’t—yet!  

All We Need

Written by Kathy Wolff | Illustrated by Margaux Meganck

 

In All We Need, Kathy Wolff and Margaux Meganck work in perfect harmony to show children that happiness resides in simple basics that satisfy our needs while nurturing us and bringing us together. Wolff’s lilting lyrical verses give Meganck a strong framework for her lovely illustrations that follow a group of children and their families from a park to a potluck community dinner. Each of Wolff’s verses are presented on two double-page spreads that invite readers to guess what necessity is being described before they turn the page. These poignant page turns also provide a short beat between around the answer that allows children to think a moment about its importance to them and others.

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The book begins in a park with Maganck’s a mother, her toddler, and her daughter who is sitting against a tree and holding a dandelion in the foreground. The long view takes in a fountain splashpad. Wolff reveals, “All we need / is what’s found in the breeze, / in the stillness of nothing, in the rustle of trees, / when we take a deep breath, what’s not seen—but is there . . . / All we need . . ..” Turn the page and a close-up of the girl blowing the dandelion while her brother tries to capture the flying fluff reveals “. . . is air.”

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The next page spread takes readers into the splashpad, where children cavort and a little girl is taking a drink break. An Asian mother watches her son enjoying the spray of the fountain. Turn the page and you can almost feel the cooling droplets as the kids revel in their fun. A couple of pages later, it’s time to leave and two families make their way down a city block towards home. Snapshots of the three main families cooking food will pique kids’ curiosity as to what they’re making and where they are going as following pages show them securing the meals for travel.

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Readers discover that they are all going to the same place, and they greet each other with smiles and hugs. The kids help their parents decorate tables with flowers and set up the serving table with plates, bowls, and cups. Maganck’s illustration of the crowd that gathers to enjoy the food and camaraderie as well as Wolff’s appeal “to share” offers a welcome opportunity for readers and adults to talk about what kind of gathering it might be, when they have attended similar events, and what community events mean to them.

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

A heartening tribute to our universal bonds, All We Need is an eloquent invitation to appreciate life’s simple gifts and build community around them. The book would be a stirring addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1619638747

Discover more about Kathy Wolff and her books on her website.

To learn more about Margaux Meganck, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Friendship Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-give-me-your-hand-puzzle-cutout-no-copyright

 

Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. Offering friendship to all, the interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become buddies with one another. 

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-we-need-cover

You can find All We Need at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review